Photo shows Swedish Prime Minister meeting with Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Dr Tedros Adhanom, now WHO Director General, and Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn. Neither Dr Tedros nor PM Hailemariam have shown any respect for the rights of Dr Fikru Maru, imprisoned heart doctor who founded Ethiopia’s first heart hospital.
This is a plea for signatures for a petition to support Swedish cardiologist, Dr Fikru Maru, who has spent over four years in Ethiopia’s dreadful prison system, and – despite being cleared of all charges- remains in prison, now charged with an absurd new crime.
So who is Dr Fikru Maru and how did he end up in one of Ethiopia’s crowded, ungodly prisons?
He is a 66-year-old Ethiopian-born Swedish cardiologist. In his twenties, he trained as a fighter pilot and was a member of the elite Ethiopian air force’s 5th Squadron, serving his country in the Ethiopian-Somalia war of 1977/78, when Somalia invaded Ethiopia.
You can find a group photograph of the young pilot, Fikru Maru, with his fellow squadron pilots, in the following article:
Despite serving his country in the air force, the communist regime, under dictator Mengistu Hailemariam, turned against many Ethiopians and massacred hundreds of thousands in the so-called “Red Terror” campaign of the late 1970s. Fikru Maru’s two brothers were murdered by the regime, and he was also on the genocidal regime’s hit-list, so he fled the country in fear of his life, moving to Sweden, where he became a citizen.
In Sweden, he went to medical school and eventually became a cardiologist. For over 35 years he practiced as one of Sweden’s top cardiologists.
In 2006, Dr Fikru helped establish, and was CEO of, a heart hospital (Addis Cardiac Hospital) in Ethiopia, his country of birth. It was the first specialized heart hospital ever in Ethiopia. He wanted to bring high quality medical care for patients with heart problems to Ethiopia, where it was sorely lacking.
You can go to the following web site for Addis Cardiac Hospital, and click on the “Board of Directors” page, and there you will see a photo of Dr Firku Maru, CEO, happily smiling. But for over four years, he has suffered incomprehensibly in prison, and has had no access to the hospital he helped establish.
I have communicated with Dr Fikru in prison, through visitors I know, including one of his daughters. He tells me that some of his patients have died because he was in prison, and they had no access to other experts in Ethiopia when they needed implanted life-saving devices (pacemakers and defibrillators) replaced. I am told that the hospital has expensive medical equipment sitting in its packaging material, with nobody to set it up and use it, and also that many visiting Swedish doctors left because Dr Fikru was jailed. This is a great loss to medical advancement in Ethiopia.
In 2010, his nightmare with Ethiopia’s appalling and flawed legal system began, when he was arrested while trying to bring essential medical supplies, needed for the new heart hospital, through Addis Ababa’s airport. A year later, the charges were dropped, but in 2013 he was re-arrested on a politically motivated charge relating to the previous one.
With delay after delay after delay of his court hearings, and after three years in prison without a conviction, he was convicted and given a 4 year 8 month jail sentence in one of Ethiopia’s crowded, disease-infested prisons.
Then, after four years of suffering in prison, his health deteriorating, in May, 2017 he was cleared of all prior charges!
That means he spent four years in prison for committing no crime!
But, instead of releasing him from prison, the Ethiopian government has now brought new charges against Dr Fikru, accusing him, along with 37 other prisoners, of being involved in a prison fire and revolt, even though he was in hospital with a serious illness, and not even in the prison, on the day of the prison revolt and fire.
The Ethiopian regime has a long record of abusing the rights of those arrested, delaying court hearings for months and years, and fabricating criminal charges. These tactics break international human rights laws, and even violate Ethiopia’s own constitution.
Please watch the following video to see how Dr Fikru, whose health is failing, barely gets the chance to hug his daughter. But be prepared to weep!
In the Ethiopian legal system, due to repeated and long delays in court hearings, people can spend years in prison without being convicted of a charge, even cleared after years in jail; and it’s not unusual to see people being cleared of one charge then being charged with a new crime.
There is no due legal process in Ethiopia, because the judiciary is controlled by the ruling political party and its allies, which won every parliamentary seat (547/547) in the last (2015) election, so there is no independent judiciary to defend the constitution fairly.
Swedish doctors and politicians have failed to convince the Ethiopian government to change its unjust treatment of Dr Fikru. The link below shows the Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven, with the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn and Ethiopia’s previous Foreign Minister, Dr Tedros Adhanom (now Director General of the WHO).
Sweden’s prime minister (left), in 2015, speaks with Dr Tedros Adhanom (right, middle; then Ethiopia’s foreign minister, now recently elected as WHO Director General) and Ethiopia’s prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn (right, sitting opposite Sweden’s PM).
Yet, the unfortunate cardiologist, Dr Fikru Maru, has been given no mercy, as he suffers in one of Ethiopia’s squalid and crowded prisons, where he often has to live in a small room with around 100 other prisoners, often without a mattress to sleep on, and at risk for infectious diseases.
Tuberculosis, for example, is a huge problem in Ethiopian prisons, where the disease occurs with up to an nine-fold higher incidence than in the general population.
Many others, including university professors, who have peacefully opposed the government’s political ideology, are suffering a fate similar to that of Dr Fikru. For example, numerous professors at Addis Ababa University were recently dismissed by the University, and have been arrested and jailed, including Dr Merera Gudina, professor and leader of a main opposition party:
In the 26 years since the current government took power, little has changed. You can read a terribly sad article about Ethiopia’s distinguished and most famous surgeon, Professor Asrat Woldeyes, so beloved of today’s medical students and doctors:
Educated at Edinburgh University Medical School, he became personal physician of Haile Selassie I, and the first Ethiopian Dean of Medicine at Addis Ababa University. His medical ethics was second-to-none, and he is considered by many to be the finest surgeon in Ethiopia’s history. Yet he was dismissed from Addis Ababa University in 1993 and jailed in 1994 because he disagreed politically with the ruling party, the same party that rules today, and formed a more unifying, peaceful opposition party. Professor Asrat became gravely ill after five years in a crowded prison, where he was not allowed communication with other prisoners, and was released for medical care only after aggressive international pressure, but he died in 1999 in the USA soon after he was released.
The international community and all good people- medical and otherwise- must speak out for Dr Fikru, therefore, and be his voice. We must speak loudly to get him released from prison after so long, all because he wanted wanted to bring advanced medical heart procedures to his country of birth.
By speaking out for Dr Fikru Maru, you are also speaking out for others who are going through similar adversity.
Please sign the petition, express your horror at the plight of Dr Fikru Maru, and demand that the Ethiopian government release, without delay, this humanitarian cardiologist, and allow him to return to his family in Sweden.
There is no place in prison for a good doctor who never forgot his fellow Ethiopians and returned to establish a heart hospital, yet ended up in the nightmare he is living right now. Is this how a country should treat a medical pioneer?
Here again is the link to the petition, and thank you for signing and being a voice for the voiceless and oppressed.
And please, if you can, share this post and the petition far and wide across the internet so that we can get as many signatures as possible.
Please also visit the official #FreeFikru web site: