Swedes convicted of blackmailing exiled Eritrean

Two Swedes who sought to profit from the kidnapping of an Eritrean man in Egypt, whom they believed to be related to an exiled Eritrean woman in Sweden, were on Friday convicted of blackmail.

Rasmi Almasri, 21, and Hussin Mohamed, 18, had asked Meron Estefanos, a Swedish-Eritrean, to pay them $33,000 (25,500 euros) in January and February, or a man living in Egypt would be murdered.

The Solna district court outside Stockholm sentenced them to one month in prison and probation, and to probation, respectively, for relaying the demands of the kidnappers in Egypt, who later killed their hostage.

The sentences fell short of the prosecutor's demand for "significant" punishments.

"It's good that the district court believes what I said and it's good that the men have been convicted," Estefanos told Swedish news agency TT.

But she described the sentencing as "strange", saying it was "time to view these (people) as terrorists."

Estefanos, a journalist, had falsely told the Swedish blackmailers she was related to the hostage in Egypt and that she was willing to pay for his release, in the hope of getting them arrested in Sweden.

The fact that she was neither related to him, nor had any money to pay his captors, was "a provocation that compelled the defendants to commit a criminal act" and "affected the penalty for the offense downwards," the Swedish court said.

According to the United Nations, Eritreans fleeing their authoritarian homeland are easy targets for human traffickers in the Sudanese desert, who abduct, exploit or kill them.

The United Nations, which runs a refugee camp on the Sudan-Egypt border, estimates that 80 percent of new arrivals leave the camp within two months for Khartoum, Egypt, Israel or further afield in search of better economic opportunities.