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Ethiopia drops terror, other charges against Swedish doctor

ADDIS ABABA,— Ethiopia has dropped terrorism and other charges against a Swedish doctor who had been accused of corruption and orchestrating a prison fire, the state-owned Ethiopian News Agency reported Friday.

The Ethiopian-born Fikru Maru has been freed, prominent blogger and former detainee Befkadu Hailu confirmed to The Associated Press.

The Swedish foreign ministry in March raised Fikru’s case with Ethiopia’s ambassador. The Swedish Embassy declined to comment Friday.

Fikru’s lawyer in Sweden, Hans Bagner, tells public Swedish radio that “It’s about time. It has been a long and very strenuous exercise.” His daughter, Emy Maru, told Swedish radio SR that “it does not feel real yet. … I won’t be fully happy before I have him next to me.”

The doctor was arrested in 2013 after a years-long dispute over equipment for his cardiology clinic in the capital, Addis Ababa. The terrorism charge came years later after he and others were accused of starting a deadly fire in the Qilinto prison where they were held.

Ethiopia has released several thousand inmates, including prominent opposition figures and journalists, since former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn promised in January to free members of political parties after more than a year of anti-government protests.

Several thousands of others have been freed since the ruling party installed new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed early last month.

The East African nation is the continent’s second most populous country and a key security ally of the West but often has been accused by rights groups and activists of having a heavy-handed approach to dissent.

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