A British teacher in Ethiopia has been spared a jail sentence over defamatory comments she made in exposing pedophilia at a children's charity. VOA's Peter Heinlein reports from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
An Ethiopian lower court judge Friday told British teacher Jill Campbell that she no longer faces jail time for refusing to apologize to a Swiss charity she was convicted of defaming. Campbell teaches at an English-language school in Addis Ababa.
|Jill and Gary Campbell address reporters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 7 Mar 2008|
Almost a decade ago, Campbell and her husband Gary compiled a report documenting sexual abuse at a children's home run by the charity Terre Des Hommes of Lausanne, Switzerland. The report prompted Terre des Hommes to apologize and close its Ethiopian operations.
The orphanage director, David Christie was subsequently convicted of sexually abusing young boys. He was sentenced by an Ethiopian court in 2003 to nine years hard labor.
But the Campbells also accused Terre des Hommes of lying to cover up the extent of the pedophilia scandal. The charity responded by suing the Campbells for defamation. An Ethiopian court upheld the suit, and ordered the couple to apologize for their remarks.
Gary Campbell issued a public apology last month, saying he was doing so because he was concerned about the welfare of the couple's two children if both their parents were in prison, but Jill Campbell refused.
She faced a possible six-month jail sentence for contempt of court. But during a brief hearing Friday, Campbell was told Terrre des Hommes had dropped their demand for an apology.
Afterward, she said she had no regrets.
"Nothing. I regret nothing, and I apologize for nothing as well, because we did nothing wrong," she said.
Campbell also had harsh words for her accusers.
"Terre Des Hommes have dropped the case against us," she added. "I don't have to now apologize, but I would like to say that they've wasted seven years pursuing us through the courts and chasing us and intimidating us. Their 7 years would have been better supporting their victims and apologizing to them and fighting for compensation for them. And I hope that they learn from this and that they start to fight for their victims instead of pursuing innocent people."
The Campbell's case had sparked widespread outrage, and prompted formation of a support group known as "Stop Institutional Pedophilia in Ethiopia'.
One prominent Ethiopian observer of the case, Member of Parliament Ahmed Hassan said he would seek laws to protect whistleblowers like the Campbells.
"I think there will be a lot of things that we will look in our legal system that will pillory people like them to be dragged into court for doing exactly what any decent human being should have done," he said.
Even though Ms. Campbell will not have to serve jail time, the Campbells still must pay court costs for the seven years of litigation. The couple's attorney, Seleshi Ketsela told VOA the costs, including fees for Terre des Hommes attorneys, could exceed $10,000. That issue is to be settled at a later date.