July 23, 2008 / 4:32 PM / 10 years ago

Israeli runner detained in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - A 53-year-old Israeli Olympic athlete training in Ethiopia has been detained for allegedly taking money from two individuals claiming he would arrange for their travel to Israel, a police spokesman said on Wednesday.

Ethiopia-born Ayele Seteng, who finished 20th in the Athens marathon and has been selected as Israel’s only athlete in the Beijing marathon next month, was arrested while he was training at high altitude.

“Ayele Seteng, an Israeli athlete with Ethiopian origin, is on his way to Gondar, northern Ethiopia to answer charges brought against him by two Ethiopians,” Commander Demsash Hailu, spokesman for Federal Police, told Reuters.

“The charges against him were that he took money from the two Ethiopians with a promise that he would arrange their travel to Israel, which did not materialize,” he said.

Ethiopia was considering a request by Israel for Ayele’s release under its guarantee, to be returned after the Beijing Olympics, said a government source who wanted to remain anonymous.

Sports minister Raleb Majadele told Israeli radio that the government would do all it could to intervene in the affair.

“We must intercede. We are not asking to do something for the athlete and his actions, and what he’s implicated in. We want to do something for the sake of sport, for our league, and for the Olympic Games.

“Therefore there is an obligation to get involved to ensure that this matter is taken care of in the best way possible, and as soon as possible.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said: “The Israeli embassy in Addis is in touch with him. Now he is on his way to Gondar where the trial will be held. He is receiving consular services from us, and a representative from the Israeli embassy will be traveling there to be present at the trial.”

There are some 110,000 Jews of Ethiopian descent living in Israel. The Jewish state began bringing them to Israel in the early 1980s after its chief rabbis ruled that they were descendants of the Jewish biblical tribe of Dan and entitled to immigrate.

Reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse; Editing by Clare Fallon

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