British government confirms opposition leader now in Ethiopian government hands

Martin Plaut 

“We have raised, with the Ethiopian Government, the UK’s deep concerns that a British national, Andargachew Tsege, has been removed from Yemen to Ethiopia. We have made clear that we expect immediate consular access and requested reassurances that the death penalty imposed in absentia will not be carried out. We will continue to raise this urgently with the Ethiopian authorities. The British Government has separately raised the completely unacceptable actions of the Yemeni government who disregarded their obligations under the Vienna Convention and Convention Against Torture and is following up further with them.”

Mr Andargachew’s case was raised with Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn by Lynne Featherstone, Britain’s Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development during a meeting in Addis Ababa on Monday 7th of July. Details of the meeting have not yet been forthcoming, but it is clear that she pressed for access to Mr Andargachew and asked for an assurance that the death penalty would not be imposed.

Mr Andargachew is the Secretary General of Ginbot 7, a political organisation established after the suppression of the Ethiopia’s election in 2005. The opposition won every seat in Addis Ababa, and Berhanu Nega (who leads Ginbot 7) was the mayor-elect of the city. Protests following the elections led to the deaths of about 200 people. In 2009, the year before the last elections, Mr Andergachew was among a group of Ginbot 7 leaders sentenced to death in absentia for planning to assassinate government officials; they denied the charges.

The plight of Mr Andargachew has been taken up by a number of organisations, including Amnesty International andHuman Rights Watch.

“We are deeply concerned for Andargachew Tsige’s safety,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director. “Ethiopia needs to demonstrate that it is holding Andargachew in accordance with its international obligations, and he should be allowed immediate access to a lawyer, his family, and to British consular officials.”

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