Ethiopia: Thousands pardoned, inc. Swedish journos

Media reports indicated that the President granted pardon today for thousands of prisoners, including two Swedish journalists.

Here are the news from the Foreign Ministry website and the US-based CBS.

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Pardons granted to more than 1950 prisoners for the New Year

(MFA – Sept. 10,2012)

The Ministry of Justice Pardon Board announced Monday (September 10) that over 1950 prisoners, including two Swedish journalists, Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, who have been imprisoned in Ethiopia for more than a year, have been pardoned and will be freed at an upcoming mass amnesty ceremony.

The two Swedes were serving 11 year sentences for illegally crossing the Ethiopian boarder and supporting the terrorist activities of the ONLF.

The decision to pardon the two was approved while the late Prime Minster Meles Zenawi was still in office as part of the regular grant of pardons given at the New Year.

Ethiopia’s Pardon and Amnesty law allows prison inmates to be granted a pardon when they have shown sincere regret for the crimes for which they were jailed and demonstrated good behavior in the correction facility. If the plea for pardon is accepted and approved by the President, pardon is granted.

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Official: Ethiopia pardons Swedish journalists

(CBS News – Sept. 10, 2012)

Two Swedish journalists who have been imprisoned in Ethiopia for more than a year have been pardoned and are set to be freed at an upcoming mass amnesty ceremony, a top government official said Monday.

The decision to pardon photographer Johan Persson and reporter Martin Schibbye had been approved by the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the official said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to divulge this information ahead of the event.

The official said the journalists have shown remorse and have asked for a pardon.

"Considering their request for pardon and the fact that they demonstrated a good behavior while serving their sentence, the government under the Prime Minister Meles had accepted their pardon request. It was never an intention of the government to see them languish in jail."

The Ethiopian government has over the years released hundreds of prisoners in a ceremony timed to coincide with the start of the new year according to Ethiopia’s calendar.

Persson and Schibbye have been in jail since July 2011, when they were arrested while trying to cross from Somalia into Ethiopia along with fighters from the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front, which Ethiopia classifies as a terrorist group.

Last December the journalists were sentenced to 11 years for abetting terrorism and entering the country illegally. They denied the terror charges, saying they were in Ethiopia simply to do their work as journalists. Their jailing was condemned by rights watchdogs such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, which said their trial was "an affront to justice and press freedom."

The journalists are likely to be released this week, the government official said.

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Related: Ethiopian court sentenced Swedish journalists to 11 years

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