The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced September 10, the eve of the New Year, that the two Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, who had spent more than a year in jail would be released the next day.
Berhan Hailu Minister of Justice told a gathering of reporters that they were released after presenting a written plea asking for clemency. He further explained that their case was decided in July but that the Ethiopian New Year was chosen for their release date, along with 1,923 prisoners who were given pardons separately under the procedure of Granting Pardon Proclamation Number 395/2004.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt meanwhile seemed to contradict the MoJ statement in an online post stating that he had been told by Ethiopian government officials in May that the journalists would be released soon in a case that had attracted outcry from media freedom watchdog groups and rights organizations.
The two Swedes had been seized after a gun battle in July 2011 after they crossed into Ethiopia from the semi-autonomous Somalia region of Puntland with a group of Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) fighters, reportedly to investigate allegations of human rights abuses committed against the local community mainly for the purpose of clearing land for various companies that were exploring oil potential in the Somali regional state, south eastern area of Ethiopia.
The Swedes were subsequently charged on two separate counts pertaining to charges of illegally entering the country and availing their professional services for a terrorist organization.