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Ethiopia Court Accepts State Case Against Swedish Reporters

Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) -- An Ethiopian court said two Swedish journalists must face charges of helping a terrorist group and entering the country illegally, while it threw out accusations that they participated in a terrorist organization.

The legal team for the two reporters, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, must be ready to present their defense next month, Judge Shemsu Sirgaga ruled today in the Federal High Court in Addis Ababa, the capital. Supporting terrorism, which includes providing moral support or giving advice, carries a maximum jail term of 15 years under a 2009 anti-terrorism law.

The prosecution presented a video yesterday of footage of the Swedes after their capture with members of the banned Ogaden National Liberation Front. Part of the film showed the defendants handling firearms in an unidentified urban setting. Much of the sound on the video was inaudible to the court.

Schibbye and Persson were detained in early July in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region after security forces engaged in a firefight with ethnic-Somali rebels.

Persson and Schibbye pleaded guilty to entering Ethiopia illegally and not guilty to terrorism charges on Oct. 20.

Two Ethiopians detained with the Swedes will be sentenced tomorrow for terrorist acts after they offered no defense, Shemsu said. The charge carries the maximum punishment of a death sentence.

The ONLF has been fighting for self-determination of the Ogaden area of Ethiopia’s Somali region since 1984. In April 2007, the group attacked an exploration site at Obole operated by China’s Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau, killing nine Chinese workers and 65 Ethiopians.

To contact the reporter on this story:  William Davison in Addis Ababa via Johannesburg at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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