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Ethiopia's Assurances Don't Convince Olympic Medalist

Silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa didn't fly out from Rio with rest of team
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2016 1:00 AM CDT
Updated Aug 24, 2016 6:09 AM CDT
Ethiopia's Assurances Don't Convince Olympic Medalist
Silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia acknowledges applause during an award ceremony as he crosses his wrists in an attempt to draw global attention to recent deadly protests in his home region, Oromia, after the men's marathon at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

(Newser) – Silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa said the Ethiopian government would likely kill or imprison him if he ever returned to the country from Rio, where he crossed his wrists above his head in solidarity with protesters in his homeland as he crossed the marathon finish line. Ethiopia shot back that he'd have a "a heroic welcome" and would face no prosecution. Those assurances weren't enough to convince Lilesa to head home, reports the New York Times. His agent confirmed he wouldn't be flying back with the rest of his team, and an AFP journalist confirmed Lilesa didn't deplane at the Addis Ababa airport with the rest of the team.

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Lilesa's agent says it was all unplanned (Lilesa's wife and two children are currently in Ethiopia), and that "he doesn't want to go to Ethiopia, he wants to go to another country. The US would be very good, but right now we just don't know where he's going to go." The Times reports applying for asylum in the US would be a multi-stage process that would likely have to start with him making that application in Brazil. A GoFundMe page set up for Lilesa has raised more than $110,000. (Read more 2016 Olympics stories.)

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