Remarks by Martin Shibbye and Johan Persson in today’s Press Conference
On how they got to the Ogaden
According to Johan Persson, there are two options to get into the Ogaden: “One is through a promotional trip with Oil Company; or with ONLF guerillas. “We chose the weaker party,” he says.
Martin and John talk about when they were arrested in the Ogaden
They crossed the border from Somalia at night with just a driver. They were then detected by the Ethiopian military and arrested some time later with the ONLF. They went with a group that ranged from 30-100 people. After the attack, ONLF left and they quickly met the Ethiopian army by standing still with their hands in the air. “From a security perceptive think it’s pretty stupid to start running, so we stood still, simply with our hands in the air,” said Martin Schibbye.
When they are asked about if, anyone was killed when they were arrested they answer. “We were attacked by 200 Ethiopian soldiers. We saw no ONLF soldier shoot back and we saw no ONLF soldier die,” says Persson. But now they have subsequently been told that two people died in connection with the arrest.
“When the shootings happened, the ONLF soldiers ran back into the bushes and the plan was that the Ethiopian soldiers would take us with them and arrest us. ONLF did not shoot back, but we were told to lie and say ONLF injured us and caused the damage,” they said.
Afraid to die
They shot both of them during the arrest in June 2011 and Johan Persson lost much blood. “We were detained in the desert and slept there. Johan was seriously injured at that time, we are trying to get them to take us to a hospital but we remained in the desert. We were kept there until July, the 4th when we met the ambassador. It is the longest day of our life,” says a shaken Martin Schibbye.
The reaction of the Swedish government on the arrest and imprisonment of the Journalists
Questions about how the Swedish government has acted in their case, the journalists say:
“It is extremely difficult to answer that now. We have been locked up for 14 Months. What we know and have seen is what the embassy have done for us. They have set up by 1000 percent and visited us once a week. What the government has done for us we do not know, it’s too early to tell, says Martin.
The criticism they received for what they did
“We had a responsibility to go there and tell them,” said Martin Schibbye. They wanted to talk about “the problem of extracting oil in this region” in place. “We are Swedes; if we had been Americans or Israelis we would have been saved. It’s easier to mess with us because we are from a small country,” says Johan Persson. Martin Schibbye believes that their arrest was a warning to other journalists. “If they can they do this against two Swedish journalists, imagine what they can do against domestic journalists,” he says.
About the video they were forced to take part
“We agreed to set up a movie for them so they don’t to kill us,” says Schibbye. Johan Persson said that the four sites used in the fake movie was recorded and then used in the trial. “It was a surreal experience, like a Steven Spielberg movie.” The days in the wilderness was “hateful” they said, and they were afraid that Johan Persson would get blood poisoning because he did not receive medical treatment. They felt they were in danger as long as the embassy did not know where they were and they needed help. If the people of Ogaden have benefited from their presence, they say that they had a “sour cream”. They knew about the suffering in the Ogaden.
“The president of the region [Abdi Mohamud Omar, aka Abdi Iley] called all the time and made sure that the “circus” (fake movie) was going on well,” they said.
The Ethiopian soldiers who captured them, they said “were sick in the head, when they dressed up like rebels and were shooting around; we thought at that moment they were going to kill us.”
“On a personal level, it is a shock to be free. In an international level, it is a scandal that we were sentenced to eleven years in prison for having done our job. This is the bottom line,” says Martin.
Efforts to share what we have seen in Ethiopia and in the prison begin today,” he adds. “And it will last as long as we live.”
“We may not carry home the story we went to pick up, but we come home with another. Sometimes we have thought that we are not prisoners, but we have thought that we were “wallraffat” in prison.”
“The Ethiopian judicial system is a joke. You showed yesterday (Uppdrag granskning), interviewing
ONLF from London on TV. In Ethiopia you would have been sentenced for 10 years in jail.”
Members of the Ogaden community in Sweden welcoming Martin Shibbye and Johan Persson.
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