Via The Local: The two Swedish journalists who were pardoned by Ethiopia on Monday have left the east African country after 14 months in prison, calling their ordeal “the biggest mistake” of their lives.
Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye left an Ethiopian prison on Monday afternoon for the safe confines of the Swedish embassy in Addis Ababa where they spent most of the evening before boarding a plane shortly after midnight.
Schibbye and Persson were arrested in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region last year in the company of what the government claimed were rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).
The two had reportedly entered Ethiopia to investigate the activities of a company affiliated with the Swedish oil firm Lundin Petroleum.
The pair was detained after illegally crossing the border from Somalia, and after a long and controversial trial were jailed for 11 years by an Ethiopian court in December 2011, having been found guilty of supporting terrorism and entering the country illegally.
According to Ethiopian Minister of Justice Berhan Hailu, the two Swedes had “shown true regret for their crimes and behaved well in prison”.
Speaking with Ethiopian television shortly after the pair’s release, Schibbye expressed his regret over entering Ethiopia illegally, calling it “the biggest mistake of my life”.
“A mistake that almost cost us our lives”, he said.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt hailed the Swedes’ release via a statement released via his official Twitter account.
“I warmly welcome that the Ethiopian authorities have now released Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson and allowed them to leave the country”, Bildt wrote.
I agree it was a great decision of Ethiopia to release the Swedes.
Everybody should of course always have their passport on them, whether it’s in your own country or abroad.
I never leave home without my passport.