Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt met with Ethiopian Prime Minister on Thursday. He visited the two Swedish journalists, Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, who are serving an 11 years prison sentence for illegally crossing Ethiopia’s international boundary and assisting a terrorist group.
However, the Swedish Minister said that his participation in the meeting was simply a pretext to secure a meeting with prime minister Zenawi, according to the Swedish news outlet.
The Mininster told Swedish media that reported that ‘it was clear it was a priority for him to meet me in front of the other African leaders’. Apparently, a reflection of the Swedish Minister’s ego that he was not supposed to be seen pleading for the convicts rather make demands by a phone call from his office in Stockholm.
According to the news:
Bildt explained that the meeting with Zenawi was meant to "establish a good relationship".
"A good relationship is a precondition for a good solution," he said.
During the meeting with the Ethiopian leader, Bildt once again emphasized Sweden’s position on the case of Persson and Schibbye but didn’t present any new requests.
He also refused to speculate on when or whether a request for a pardon would be filed on behalf of the two Swedes, nor on when they might eventually be released.
"I don’t dare speculate. I don’t think that would be wise," he said.
Concerning his an hour long visit to prison on Friday, the Minister was quoted as saying that:
"We basically had a very good conversation. The conditions are tough, but they’re doing well under the circumstances".
"They insisted that news of my visit should come out. They see it as a signal of strong support for them both in Sweden and in Ethiopia."
The two Swedish nationals were captured with on July 2011 in eastern Ethiopia, by Somali region police force, after they entered Ethiopian territory accompanying a terror group.
An Ethiopian court dismissed the government’s charge that they participated in terrorism, but found them guilty of illegally entering the country and supporting terrorism.
Western based rights groups, media organizations as well as the Swedish Prime Minister demanded their ‘immediate and unconditional release’ in a blatant disregard of the fact that the two journalists pleaded guilty for the charge of entering the country illegally which by itself is punishable with upto three years imprisonment.
The two Swedish chose to count on Ethiopia’s "tradition of grace and forgiveness" rather than lodge and appeal to a higher court, according to the report on Swedish media last January. It is not clear if they submitted a petition for pardon to date.
PM Meles Zenawi recently hinted, in general terms, that pardon is a possibility for those who remorse, however, ‘you can’t ask for amnesty and try twisting arms at the same time’.
It is to remembered that Wikileaks cables revealed Swedish’s sympathetic position towards the pariah regime in Eritrea. The Scandinavian country provided last year about 20 million dollars, for trainings of democratic institutions.
There was no reference to the Swedish Minister’s meetings in the Ethiopian media.
Check the terrorism archive for related posts.