The Honourable Federica Mogherini
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security
Policy /Vice President of the European Commission
Brussels, 12 December 2016
Dear High Representative Mogherini,
Mr. Fikru Maru, a cardiac surgeon and Swedish national of Ethiopian origin, has been imprisoned in Ethiopia since May 2013.
Mr. Maru was educated in Sweden and has lived there for the past 37 years. He has worked as a cardiac surgeon at top Swedish hospitals such as Danderyd and St. Göran's hospitals in Stockholm.
With support from Swedfund, the Swedish state's development financier, Mr. Maru had been running a hospital in Addis Ababa since 2006. Nevertheless, following a visit to the hospital in 2010, he was apprehended at the airport under suspicion of trying to smuggle hospital supplies into the country.
Mr. Maru was arrested upon refusal to pay a bribe in order to enter the country with the supplies. These charges were dropped, but they were eventually brought up again in the spring of 2013 in connection with a state inquiry into corruption involving Ethiopia’s customs minister. As a consequence, Mr. Maru was taken into custody in May 2013 under the accusation of having bribed the customs minister in order to have the charges from 2010 dropped.
After a cumbersome judicial process and following three-and-a-half years in the high-security prison Kality, the court in Addis Ababa finally ruled on Mr. Maru’s case on 21October 2016. Mr. Maru was found guilty of “knowledge of corruption at ministerial level” and sentenced to four years and eight months in prison. In addition, he was order to pay 3,000 U.S. dollars in fines. At the same time, it was expected that Mr. Maru, having already spent jail time prior to his trial, would get a commuted sentence and would soon be reunited with his family in Sweden. In the meantime, Mr. Maru had to be relocated to a hospital facility in September 2016 due to poor health because of a collapsed lung.
One day after his hospitalization, a rebellion and fire broke out in the Kality prison, leading to 23 human casualties. Shortly thereafter, the prosecutor presented a new indictment against Maru, wrongfully accusing him of causing and leading the prison rebellion despite his proven absence from prison grounds. Mr. Maru is now prosecuted for a terrorist offense, which carries the risk of both life imprisonment and the death penalty. A first court hearing is planned for 23 December 2016. Meanwhile, Mr. Maru recently underwent a lung operation in Ethiopia and is in a very critical condition. The hope of getting him out of Ethiopia alive is shrinking by the day.
We, Members of the European Parliament, would like to express our deepest concern for Mr. Maru’s situation and condemn the poor and arbitrary treatment of his case by the Ethiopian authorities. It is worrisome that Mr. Maru, despite the lack of evidence against him and his poor health, has been detained for years in Ethiopian prison without being granted his fundamental right to a fair and speedy trial.
Furthermore, it is unreasonable to believe that Maru would risk his own release – after having fought for it in a court of law for years – by instigating a prison riot for which he was not even physically present. Moreover, a human rights organization in Ethiopia has investigated the cause of the fire and has concluded that it is the inmate’s dissatisfaction over the bad governance of the prison that has caused the rebellion.
We therefore consider the imprisonment of Mr. Maru an injustice that further highlights the Ethiopian authorities’ lack of respect for international law and human rights.
Despite Swedish diplomatic actions in this case, efforts have been fruitless thus far. We therefore request that the EEAS and the Commission engage directly and decisively with Ethiopian authorities and call for the immediate release of Mr. Fikru Maru. Given the urgency of this matter, we expect and demand swift action from the EU.
We look forward to your reply.
Bodil Valero MEP
Linnea Engström MEP
Max Andersson MEP
Jakop Dalunde MEP
Malin Björk MEP
Cecilia Wikström MEP
Jasenko Selimovic MEP
Fredrick Federley MEP
Marita Ulvskog MEP
Olle Ludvigsson MEP
Jytte Guteland MEP
Jens Nilsson MEP
Anna Hedh MEP
Soraya Post MEP
Lars Adaktusson MEP
Anna Maria Corazza Bildt MEP
Gunnar Hökmark MEP
Christofer Fjellner MEP