Swedish journalists have been denied visas to Ethiopia to cover the trial of Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson who are charged with terrorism and face the prospect of long prison sentences.
“If Swedish journalists are not allowed into the country we won’t find out what has happened,” author Ola Larsmo, chair of writers’ association Swedish Pen, told the Dagens Nyheter daily.
Sveriges Radio, Sveriges Television, TV4, Dagens Nyheter and the TT news agency have all applied for visas to cover the trial.
The trial is scheduled to begin on October 18th.
The two freelance reporters Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were arrested in the beginning of July, in the Ogaden province of Ethiopia, bordering on Somalia, and charged with terror crimes.
The two journalists had entered the country illegally and were in the company of the region’s ONLF guerrillas at the time of their arrest.
From the beginning the pair have been adamant that they are innocent of terrorist charges.
Recently there has been speculation in the Swedish media whether the two were in the country to report on Lundin Petroleum, a Swedish oil and mining company, at the time of their arrest.
Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt has been criticised recently for his handling of the case.
Last Thursday Bildt rejected any claims that his previous involvement with Lundin Petroleum would have any impact on dealings with Ethiopia in the reporters’ case.
“Why would it? There is no conceivable reason for that. I don’t believe that Lundin Petroleum is in that area but even if they were, it would be totally irrelevant,” Bildt said.
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