Ethiopian-born Swedish doctor freed after charges dropped

The Washington Post

Jan M. Olsen | AP

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A Swedish doctor who had been imprisoned in his native Ethiopia on charges of corruption and terrorism has been freed.

Fikru Maru told Swedish broadcaster SVT on Tuesday that “it’s great to be out in the fresh air.” State-owned media last week reported that Ethiopia had dropped the charges.

“I will come home to Sweden, I promise. I don’t know exactly when it will be,” he told SVT by telephone. The broadcaster said he was on his way to the Swedish Embassy in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom welcomed the release, saying the ministry had been working on the case “intensively for several years.”

Fikru was arrested in 2013 after a years-long dispute over equipment for his cardiology clinic in Addis Ababa. The terrorism charge came years later when he and others were accused of starting a deadly fire in the prison where they were held.

Ethiopia has released several thousand inmates, including prominent opposition figures and journalists, since former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn promised in January to free members of political parties after more than a year of anti-government protests.

The East African nation is the continent’s second most populous country and a key security ally of the West but often has been accused by rights groups and activists of having a heavy-handed approach to dissent.

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