‘Be brave’ – Andy Tsege’s message to his children from Ethiopia’s ‘gulag’

Image of Andy's children kissing him

Britain’s ambassador to Ethiopia was recently able to visit Andy in the prison that has been described as Ethiopia’s ‘gulag.’ During Andy’s 16 month detention he has not been allowed to see his family, and his Reprieve lawyer has been barred from visiting him.  He has only been allowed five visits from the British Ambassador,which are closely monitored by the prison guards.

Andy revealed that he is afraid he will die soon. He has asked the British government to ensure that he is buried in England, where his partner and three children live. He told his children to “be brave.”

“Andy Tsege is a British father of three who has been subjected to 16 months’ of abuse at the hands of the Ethiopian authorities – from kidnap to torture to an in absentia death sentence. It is tragic that he now feels the only way he will return home to Britain is in a coffin. Yet instead of demanding Andy’s release from unlawful detention, ministers have been cosying up to the Ethiopians at a special trade event just last week. The Foreign Office must urgently push for his release, so he can return to his partner and children in London before it’s too late.”

Maya Foa, head of Reprieve’s death penalty team

Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, was abducted at an airport in Yemen in June 2014 and rendered unlawfully to Ethiopia. He spent a year in secret detention, and was interrogated for months, before being recently moved to a notorious prison. Andy is a prominent critic of Ethiopia’s ruling party and a campaigner for democracy. He received an in absentia death sentence on charges relating to his political views.

Since his kidnap, Andy has not been allowed to see his family, and his Reprieve lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, has been barred from visiting him. He has not been charged with any crime or given any form of legal process.

During his rare visit for the British Ambassador, Andy also revealed that:

  • The Ethiopian authorities have not allowed him outside his cell for months
  • He is an effective ‘ghost prisoner’ – the Ethiopian authorities have not told him what charges or sentence he faces, and he has no prisoner number
  • He has demanded a lawyer, but the request has been refused
  • He has been refused access to an independent doctor, despite illness

The UK government must act if Andy is to be released

2015_10_23_PUB Andy Tsege SplashThe UN has condemned Andy’s ordeal and ordered Ethiopia to release him, but the British government has so far limited itself to requesting proper consular access and ‘due process’ to be followed in his case.

Last week, Foreign Office Minister Grant Shapps MP hosted a trade event in London with the Ethiopian Foreign Minister and other officials, promising in his remarks that the UK would stand “shoulder to shoulder” with them.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond later revealed that he had raised Andy’s case with his Ethiopian counterpart during the visit, but that he had not asked for Andy’s release.

Thousands campaign for Andy’s freedom, but the UK government refuses to demand his immediate release – click here to read more.