ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — A British teacher who was convicted of defamation after a report she made exposed sexual abuse at a children’s charity in Ethiopia will not serve time in jail, a court ruled Friday.
Jill Campbell and her husband, Gary, compiled evidence in 1999 that helped convict the director of an Ethiopian orphanage that the Swiss charity Terre Des Hommes-Lausanne used to run.
The charity acknowledged the abuse took place, but brought a successful defamation case against the Campbells for their claims that the charity’s senior staff covered up the scandal.
The Swiss charity asked the court not to sentence Jill Campbell because her husband, Gary, had made a public apology last month, said Seleshi Ketsela, a lawyer who represented her in the case.
“The case is closed. … They said one (apology) is enough,” Seleshi told The Associated Press.
Jill Campbell was convicted Wednesday and had faced up to six months in prison. She said that she was relieved by the outcome, but was unhappy that the charity had not formally apologized to the victims or financially compensated them.
“I regret nothing and I apologize for nothing as well because we did nothing wrong,” she told journalists.
Gary Campbell issued a public apology for the comments last month, then said he did so only because nobody would be able to care for the couple’s children if they both went to jail.
Friday’s court session — closed to the media — took only about five minutes. As soon as the Campbells emerged from the court there was jubilation from their foreign and Ethiopian friends who had gathered outside the courthouse. A number of them hugged each other on receiving the news of the court’s decision.
The Campbells, who have lived in Ethiopia for more than a decade, have drawn wide support.
Their report on sexual abuse, which was sparked by stories they had heard from local friends, prompted the charity to apologize and leave Ethiopia. In 2003, an Ethiopian court sentenced orphanage director David Christie to nine years of hard labor for abusing several young boys.
The report included testimony from several young boys at the orphanage, including one who said he had been at the orphanage run by TdH in the northeastern town of Jari.
“I thought I was lucky to have been chosen to sleep with this man, I was a vulnerable young boy with no knowledge of the world that existed outside Jari,” the boy, who went by the initial G, says in the report. “I trusted white men who had, on the surface, appeared to make Jari a good place to live in.”