By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA, Sept 10 (Reuters) – Two Swedish journalists were released by Ethiopia on Monday after being pardoned earlier in the day by the government which had jailed them for assisting an outlawed rebel group, a diplomatic source told Reuters.

The source said the journalists were released from prison in the afternoon and had boarded a plane bound for Sweden.

“They have boarded the plane already, they were released a few hours ago,” the Western diplomatic source told Reuters at Addis Ababa airport.

Other sources at the airport confirmed to Reuters that the plane had departed with the journalists on board.

Reporter Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson were arrested in July, 2011, after entering the country from neighbouring Somalia with fighters from the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebel group.

A government source told Reuters earlier on Monday that the two had been pardoned along with more than 1,900 other inmates, adding that the decision was approved before the death of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who died on Aug. 20.

“These journalists submitted their petition to the late Prime Minister before June and … (President Girma Woldegiorgis) arrived at a decision to grant pardon to them,” Justice Minister Berhan Hailu told a new conference.

“Within 24 hours they have to leave the country.”  Read more…