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2 Swedish journalists face terrorism charges in Ethiopia

By Sarah Jones, CNN
updated 7:21 AM EDT, Fri November 4, 2011
Swedish journalist Martin Schibbye (2-R) talks to his lawyer at an Ethiopian courtroom, on November 1, in Addis Ababa.
Swedish journalist Martin Schibbye (2-R) talks to his lawyer at an Ethiopian courtroom, on November 1, in Addis Ababa.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ethiopian troops arrested Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye in July
  • Rights group say the two were embedded with the rebels while working on a story in Ogaden
  • Ogaden is along the nation's border with Somalia

(CNN) -- Two Swedish journalists charged with terrorism in Ethiopia face years in prison after their arrest in a prohibited region along the nation's border with Somalia.

Ethiopian troops captured Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye in July during a gunfire exchange with a rebel group in Ogaden, according to state media.

Press freedom groups said the two were embedded with the Ogaden National Liberation Front rebels while working on a story about the region.

Journalists and aid workers are prohibited from traveling to Ogaden, which activists say is rife with human rights abuses against ethnic Somalis by Ethiopian troops.

The federal prosecutor has charged the two with "attempting to dismantle the constitutional system through the organized armed group," according to the Ethiopian News Agency.

Ethiopian officials have publicly accused the journalists of being accomplices to terrorism after the government declared the rebels a terrorist group in June.

The two face two counts: one for entering the country illegally and a second for providing assistance to a terrorist organization, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Both journalists have pleaded guilty to entering the country illegally through Somalia without accreditation, according to the journalists' group, which says Ethiopian officials deny media access to the area without government minders.

The two are contributors to the Sweden-based agency Kontinent.

They face 15 years in prison if found guilty.

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