The family of a British citizen kidnapped and rendered to Ethiopia in June has called on the British government to secure his release as soon as possible.
Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, a father of three from London, was travelling to Eritrea in June this year when he was seized during a stopover in Yemen. Two weeks later, Ethiopian officials admitted to the UK government that Mr Tsege was in their custody.
The legal charity Reprieve says British consular staff were denied access to Mr Tsege over 50 days after his initial capture, and his family still do not know where is being held. Last month, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn dismissed concerns about Mr Tsege’s concerns and whereabouts.
Mr Tsege, who is a prominent member of an Ethiopian opposition group, faces a death sentence imposed in absentia, and his arrest comes amid a crackdown on political activists and journalists ahead of elections in Ethiopia next year. In a heavily-edited video aired recently on Ethiopian state TV, Mr Tsege appeared thin and exhausted, and was presented as having ‘confessed’ to various charges.
Torture in prisons in Ethiopia is common; a 2013 Human Rights Watch report on the notorious Maekelawi Police Station documented serious human rights abuses, unlawful interrogation tactics, and poor detention conditions.
Speaking to The Times in an interview published yesterday (18 August), Mr Tsege’s partner Yemi Haile Mariam said: “Where is the outrage that a Brit has been held for this many days? He is a British national sentenced to execution in absentia.”
Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “Andy Tsege has been subject to kidnapping, torture, and secret detention, all for the ‘crime’ of his political beliefs. He had to endure 50 days of detention and torture before UK officials were even permitted to see him this week. Even now, his family in London have no idea where he is being held, and in what conditions. This is an unacceptable state of affairs; the UK government should be using its close ties to Ethiopia to call unequivocally for his release.”