Ethiopian Olympic marathon silver medalist protester reportedly arrives in U.S.
Feyisa Lilesa, the Ethiopian Olympic marathon silver medalist who crossed the finish line in Rio with his wrists crossed above his head in anti-government protest, has arrived in the U.S., according to the BBC.
Lilesa’s agent said Friday that he has heard that Lilesa has arrived in the U.S., but he has not yet spoken with the runner to confirm.
On Aug. 21, Lilesa finished second in the Olympic marathon, made the protest gesture at least a few times and then said, “If I go back to Ethiopia, maybe they will kill me, or put me in prison,” according to Agence France-Presse. “It is very dangerous in my country. Maybe I have to go to another country. I was protesting for people everywhere who have no freedom.”
The government later said Lilesa would be received as a hero when he returned to Ethiopia, according to the BBC. There have been no widespread reports that Lilesa has stepped foot in Ethiopia since the Olympics.
Lilesa, a 26-year-old who posted Ethiopia’s best Olympic men’s marathon finish since 2000, explained why he protested that day.
“The Ethiopian government are killing the Oromo people and taking their land and resources so the Oromo people are protesting, and I support the protest as I am Oromo,’' Lilesa said, according to The Associated Press. “The Ethiopian government is killing my people so I stand with all protests anywhere as Oromo is my tribe. My relatives are in prison and if they talk about democratic rights they are killed. I raised my hands to support with the Oromo protest.”