ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopian authorities on Tuesday released an Ethiopian-born Swedish cardiologist who has been in jail since 2013 on corruption and terrorism charges, his family members said.
Fikru Maru, who founded a heart hospital in the capital Addis Ababa, was held in custody on suspicion of graft, but in October 2016 he was sentenced to four years and eight months for tax fraud related to his business.
Though he was acquitted of corruption afterward, the 67-year old was then charged in December, 2016, with involvement in causing a fire that ripped through a prison complex and killed dozens of inmates in September of that year.
Prosecutors accused him of financing and recruiting the perpetrators. He had always denied the charges against him.
The terrorism charges against him were dropped last week.
“Five years of his life have been taken away despite his innocence. Words cannot express my happiness at his release,” his daughter Amy Fikru told Reuters shortly after he walked out of the prison complex.
Fikru is one of thousands of prisoners, including high-profile journalists and opposition leaders who had been charged with a variety of offences, including terrorism, to be freed.
Their release is part of reform pledges by the government of Abiy Ahmed, who took over in April this year, and preceding administrations, to end widespread protests
Hundreds of people have been killed during protests that convulsed two of the country’s most populous provinces, whose ethnic Oromo and Amharic communities complain they are politically marginalized.
Editing by Richard Balmforth