Friday, July 11, 2014

Ethiopian Heart Patients are dying due to the imprisonment of A Renown Ethio-Swedish Cardiologist for 13 months

A prominent Ethio-Swedish cardiologist from Sweden changed the course of medicine and saved many lives in Ethiopia, but now Dr.Fikru Maru is wrongfully imprisoned since May, 2013. Ethiopian officials accused him of having a secret contact with a former chief of Ethiopian custom's authority, who has been also charged with suspicion of corruption and in jail since last year.
Right now, Dr. Fikru is placed in " Kilinto Prison which has
  • 3 different zones, and Dr. Fikru belongs to zone 2,
  • 7 different rooms, each room carries around 90 prisoners,
  • is located in one of the hottest areas of Ethiopia (an average temperature between 35-40 degree Celsius),
  • water is very scarce, malaria is rampant and sanitation at its worst.
It's not only sad but inhumane for a very well known cardiologist to be treated like petty criminals for the crimes he neither committed nor charged with. He is sleeping on the floor on the flea and mice infested cell, thousands Kilometers away from his closest family who live in Sweden. According to his first ever interview he made since his arrest last year with the Swedish National Television on July 10th 2014, what saddens him most at the moment is some of his cardiac patients are dying since he is the only person who could change cardiac defibrillators implanted in their body. His Swedish colleagues who used to go and treat patients at Addis Cardiac Hospital, are not going there for fear of being detained by the Ethiopian officials.
As a family member said some days ago,

" Fikru 'Gashe' Maru , not only an outstanding heart specialist but also a father, grandfather, husband and friend. Freedom and justice are basic human rights."
Even more, his freedom benefits the health of children, women and men all over Ethiopia. It is not just freedom and justice that is missing for him. It affects thousands, and the way things are going, it can go on for ages.

Dr. Fikru at Addis Cardiac Hospital's Theater
There are many Ethiopians in the Diaspora who have excelled in various academic fields and are working in reputable research centers and universities in Europe and the United States. Most of these Ethiopians had left their country for various reasons. One such person is Dr. Fikru Maru. He was born in Addis Ababa 63 years ago. He pursued his elementary and secondary education in the capital and Arsi ( an area a few Kilometers from Addis) respectively. Later on he joined the then renowned Ethiopian Air Force from where he graduated as a fighter pilot. Like thousands of other Ethiopians he was not comfortable with the revolution of 1974. Consequently, he fled to Sweden to start a new life in exile which was not easy at all for him. He had to struggle hard to become what he is today -  Dr. Fikru's specialty is very rare even in Europe is an expert in
  • echocardiography,
  • coronary angiography,
  • pacemaker implantation (operation)
  • spinal cord stimulation for severe angina pectoris and
  • non-invasive electrophysiological tests.
Since he became a doctor, he has never really had a vacation or for that matter taken any breaks from his job. When starting to work in Ethiopia his workload almost doubled. However it did not stop him from pushing on. So now in Kilinto, he did not only loose freedom, ironically he gained a break.

An Inmate and a Life-saver!
Dr. Fikru & his Youngest daughter Emy
What is amazing is that Dr. Fikru continues to treat people no matter where he is, or what the situation brings. Here's what Dr. Fikru does even while in captivity.
On Friday, one of my fellow inmates started showing symptoms of what might have been a heart attack. I was called to the clinic to give professional advice. Although the prison has very helpful medical staff, I realized there was no equipment for such a scenario.... The light was out and the only source of light was my flash light which i usually use to read books with.
The man was in severe pain and screaming the whole night. We managed to get a few light pain killers but they did not help. After almost 24hrs of no sleep and barely stable conditions, I finally got the good news that a transport car was found and the man was taken to the nearest hospital. Today I got word that thanks to my initiative, the man was critical but now stable. I felt relieved...I guess I still got it!”
he said and smiled.
Swedish Silent Diplomacy 
Dr. Fikru is consultant at Hudiksvall hospital and a Swedish citizen but he's not a journalist. He is sitting in almost similar prison as the Swedish journalists did .... The Swedish journalists were being served each day from the Swedish consulate, but it may not Dr. Fikru. He may instead rely on relatives to bring food and wash his clothes. The Ethiopian officials deliberately sent him hundred Kilometers away from the capital to make sure that he suffers from lack of contacts with his family and the outside world. Sweden's Foreign Department has not yet taken action when it comes to getting Fikru free. They indicate as a reason that they can not intervene in pending litigation. And yet , Dr. Fikru is being wasted and forgotten in the middle of nowhere in Ethiopia as if he is nobody.
Here's how his youngest daughter, Emy, expressed her frustration to the Swedish National Television about the imprisonment of her father since May last year in Ethiopia.

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