The Olympic runner from Ethiopia who defiantly made an anti-government gesture at the finish line of the men’s marathon Sunday will receive a “heroic welcome” and not face prosecution, a government spokesman said Monday.
Feyisa Lilesa crossed his arms above his head to draw attention to deadly protests in Oromia, his home region in Ethiopia, as he secured his second-place win at the end of the event of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the Associated Press reported. He told reporters that he may be killed or imprisoned if he ever returns home, where protesting is “very dangerous.”
“If I go back to Ethiopia, the government will kill me,” Lilesa told Sports Illustrated. “If not, they will charge me. After that, if they not charge, they will block in the airport in immigration. I want to move to another country and try to go to another country.”
Ethiopia’s Communications Minister Getachew Reda told CNN that Lilesa is an “Ethiopian hero” who “shouldn’t at all be worried” to return to his home country. “I can assure you nothing is going to happen to his family nothing is going to happen to him,” Reda said.