After Protest Gesture, Medalist Can Never Return Home

Ethiopian says government will kill or jail him
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2016 1:32 AM CDT
Updated Aug 22, 2016 5:33 AM CDT
After Protest Gesture, Medalist Can Never Return Home
Lelisa crosses his arms on the podium after the men's marathon.   (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

If they awarded Olympic medals for bravery, Feyisa Lilesa would have a gold to add to his marathon silver. The Ethiopian runner crossed his wrists above his head at the end of the men's marathon in Rio to show solidarity with protesters in his homeland, and he says the government will probably kill him if he ever goes home again, the Los Angeles Times reports. Lilesa says security forces have slaughtered hundreds of members of his Oromo tribe in a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests. He says some of his relatives are already in prison and he doesn't know what will happen to his wife and two children, who are still in Ethiopia, the New York Times reports.

"If I go back to Ethiopia, maybe they will kill me. If I am not killed, maybe they will put me in prison," Lilesa tells the Sydney Morning Herald. He's not sure where he will go now, but he says the US and Kenya are possibilities. NBC New York reports that rights group say scores of protesters—many of them making the same gesture as Lilesa—have been gunned down at protests over the last few months. Lilesa's "career with the Ethiopian Athletics Federation ended tonight," tweeted OPride editor Mohammed Ademo. "But his courageous act of protest is one for the history books." (More Ethiopia stories.)

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