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Pardons for the two Swedish journalists jailed for ‘aiding terrorism’ is likely to take more time than reported, says a senior government official.
Quoting European Union Parliament Member and former Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, who met Prime Minister Meles Zenawi two weeks ago in Addis Ababa, some international media outlets reported that the pair, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, could be released “within days.”
“There is no finalized deal or negotiation as being alleged. The journalists first have to serve some time, and show remorse in the process before pardon request could be entertained,” said the senior official downplaying the report.
The official, who discussed the issue on conditions of anonymity, says imminent release of the journalists is unlikely. However the official refrained from predicting how long it may take.
The European lawmaker, Louis Michel reportedly had ‘productive discussions’ with Meles that suggested the journalists could be released soon. “I expect the solution will be found rather quickly, and I am rather optimistic about this issue,” he was quoted as saying.
Meles also met Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt recently in London on sidelines of an international meeting on Somalia hosted by the UK. The case of the two journalists has been speculated to be their discussion point.
“Sincerely I have felt that Prime Minister Meles is conscious that it is embarrassing,” Michel said. “And I believe he wants to have a solution, which, of course, is in line with the rule of law. And he’s rather creative to find this if goodwill is coming from these prisoners, also with an understanding position from the Government of Sweden.”
The Federal High Court third criminal ben ch convicted on December 21 Persson and Martin on two separate counts pertaining to charges of illegally entering the country and availing their professional services for a terrorist organization.
During their trial, while the two denied aiding the outlawed Ogaden National Liberation Front, they admitted and apologized for entering the country illegally. The court handed 11 years jail term for each. Later their representative announced that they would seek pardon, rather than appealing the convictions and sentencing.
“Those two journalists first of all said to me that they made a very big mistake and were regretting to have done so, that they were ready to apologize and to promise not to repeat this mistake and learning lessons from this bad experience,” said Michel who was apparently allowed to visit the jailed journalists.