ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopian court yesterday has thrown out terrorism charges against Ethiopian-born Swedish heart surgeon Dr Fikru Maru who has been in prison since 2013.
Dr Fikru still remains in jail as a suspect in the Kilinto Prison fire. He and 30 other prisoners have been charged with organizing and participating in an attempt to break out of Kilinto prison in September 2016 that resulted in a huge fire and the death of 30 prisoners. All of the prisoners who died were gunned down by prison guards, according to witnesses. Dr Fiku was not in prison during the escape attempt. He was in a hospital.
Yesterday’s court ruling was a “progress,” says Fikru Maru’s lawyer, Hans Bagner. He hopes that it is one step closer to his release. Talks have been underway between Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Margot Wallstrom and her Ethiopian counterpart.
The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not yet received any assurances that the doctor will really be released. But the signals that have reached the UN and Swedish authorities in recent days are the most positive since he was arrested five years ago, says a source in the Swedish Foreign Ministry.
Dr Fikru’s daughter, Emy Maru, said yesterday things are uncertain because there is no new court date and conditions in prison are difficult: “I am concerned for my dad’s life,” Emy Maru told reporters after yesterday’s court hearing.
Emy said chaos broke out in the courtroom after the ruling that ordered 30 out of the 38 defendants, including Dr Fikru Maru, to remain in jail and defend themselves against the Kilinto prison fire accusation.
The police have savagely attacked families of the prisoners with batons and pointed their guns at them when they expressed their frustrations with the court’s decision.
“It’s incomprehensible for me to understand that Sweden’s foreign minister supports this regime,” said Emy, who had previously criticized Margot Wallstrom for failing to do enough to have her father released.