June 29 2012 at 12:23pm
.Stockholm – Two Swedish journalists who have been sentenced to 11 years in prison in Ethiopia issued a statement Friday from prison, on the anniversary of their arrest a year ago.
“It has been the longest year in our lives,” photojournalist Johan Persson and journalist Martin Schibbye said.
They were arrested July 1, 2011 and found guilty in December on charges of supporting terrorism and illegally entering Ethiopia.
“Initially we only focused on eating, keeping warm on the cement floor and not falling ill. Today the challenge is psychological. Prison kills your intellect,” the two said.
Their statement was conveyed via Swedish diplomats who met them Thursday at the Kality Prison in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The two reporters said in January they would not appeal their sentence, but rather apply for clemency.
Persson’s father, Kjell Persson, told Swedish Radio the families “did not dare predict” when the duo would be released.
The Swedish government, as well as media watchdogs and pressure groups including Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and the Swedish Union of Journalists have criticized the journalists’ sentence.
The pair entered the eastern Ethiopian province of Ogaden, where they said they planned to investigate alleged human rights violations in the restive region, which is closed to reporters.
During the trial, the two admitted to entering the country illegally from Somalia, but denied the terrorism charges.
They were travelling with members of the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) – as so-called embedded reporters – when they were arrested. – Sapa-dpa