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High-profile cardiologist convicted on corruption charges implicated in deadly prison fire

Dr. Fikru Maru, the high-profile cardiologist who was convicted on corruption charges, was indicted along with 37 other suspects for starting the deadly fire that broke out in the Qilinto federal penitentiary on September 3 that led to the death of 23 inmates and razed property worth 15 million Birr.

In a charge filed with the 19th Criminal Bench of the Federal High Court the federal Attorney General accused the suspects of violating Articles 32 and 38 of the Revised Criminal Code as well as Article 3 of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009. The indictment states that the defendants were under custody on charges of carrying out the mission given to them by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Ginbot 7 and Al-Shabaab, groups designated as terrorists by Parliament, with the aim of pressuring the government.

The charge further reads that the defendants, intent on instigating a riot inside Qilinto so as to break out and join the terror groups, had engaged beginning January 2016 in recruiting and organizing inmates for said purpose.  It accuses the suspects of raising money from abroad and prisoners jailed in local prisons to finance what they called the “terror and gang group”, a group comprised of inmates charged with serious offences, to perpetrate the riot.

Dr. Fikru, 66, is accused of financing the “terror and gang group” to the tune of 70,000 Birr and giving instructions to the group to carry out the insurrection. The group is said to have organized the defendants under cells and exchanged information through encrypted codes. Though it had planned to set off the riot in March 2016, it put off its plans because members of the OLF and Ginbot 7 who were anticipated to join Qilinto as inmates did not, according to the charge.

The defendants allegedly conspired to murder inmates they suspected of ratting on them to prison authorities and beat them to death with steel bars. They then abducted and disarmed prison officers who were conducting a routine a head count, freed prisoners and set prison cells on fire.

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