Ethiopian marathoner and silver medalist at the just concluded Rio 2016 Olympics has refused to return home following his anti-government gesture as he crossed the finish line on Sunday, according to New York Times.
The 26-year-old athlete, Feyisa Lilesa, raised his arms in a defiance gesture, which signified his solidarity with the Oromo people, who have been protesting over alleged marginalization by the Ethiopian government.
He doesn’t want to go to Ethiopia; he wants to go to another country. The U.S. would be very good but right now we just don’t know where he’s going to go, Lelisa’s agent Federico Rosa, told the New York Times.
‘They Will Kill Me’
Lilesa refused to fly back to Ethiopia with his colleagues on Tuesday fearing that he might be killed or jailed for his powerful anti-government protest in Rio, Brazil.
The Ethiopian marathoner, who is a husband and a father of two, chose to remain in Brazil as he contemplates his next move.
If I go back to Ethiopia, maybe they will kill me. If I am not killed, maybe they will put me in prison,” Lelisa told CNN.
However, Ethiopian authorities were quick to refute Lelisa’s claims, assuring him that he has nothing to be worried about.
Ethiopia’s Minister for Communications, Getachew Reda, even called him the “Ethiopian hero”, according to CNN.
“I can assure you nothing is going to happen to his family; nothing is going to happen to him,” the minister said.
Over the past few weeks, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians, mainly from the Oromo ethnic group, have been protesting in the streets of Oromia region over alleged political and economic marginalization by their government.
Human rights organizations have accused the Ethiopian government of using excessive force against the protesters.
According to a Human Rights Watch report published in June, at least 400 people, majority of them Ethiopian civilians, had been killed by Ethiopian police in seven months.
Many more have been arrested and jailed for what the Ethiopian authorities say is engaging in illegal anti-government protests.