Pop star Teddy Afro freed from jail in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia’s most popular singer, Teddy Afro, was freed early from prison on Thursday after serving 18 months of a two-year sentence for hit-and-run manslaughter.

The performer, whose real name is Tewodros Kassahun, was found guilty of killing an 18-year-old homeless man while driving his BMW in the capital Addis Ababa in 2007.

Lawyers said he was freed early because of good behavior.

“I would like to express my respect and gratitude to all the people of our country,” Afro told state TV after his release.

“I was able to meet many good people in prison, from the lowest-ranking policemen to the highest administrator. I had a nice time. My relations with other prisoners were also good.”

Afro, who is well known for criticizing the government in his fiery lyrics, is hugely popular among young Ethiopians and sings mostly in the local Amharic language.

Hundreds protested outside the court during his trial -- an unusual event in a nation where dissent is rare.

His sentence had been cut from six years in February after his lawyer argued that the victim had been drunk and was lying unconscious on the road when he was hit by the singer’s car.

Afro has always denied being in the vehicle.

Reporting by Barry Malone and Tsegaye Tadesse; editing by Daniel Wallis