‘Bury me in England’ – new fears for British father kidnapped to Ethiopia
October 26, 2015
A British father of three who has been held for 16 months in incommunicado detention in Ethiopia has suggested he may die in prison.
Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, whose British partner and children live in London, was abducted at an airport in Yemen in June 2014 and rendered unlawfully to Ethiopia. He spent a year in secret detention, and was subjected to months of ‘interrogations’, before being recently moved to a prison that has previously been described as a ‘gulag.’ Andy is a prominent critic of Ethiopia’s ruling party, and has received an in absentia death sentence on charges relating to his political views.
Since his kidnap, Andy has been refused access to a lawyer or his family, and has not been charged with any crime or subjected to any form of legal process. Lawyers at human rights organization Reprieve have been barred from visiting him.
It’s now emerged that Andy is afraid that he will soon die; he has asked the British government to ensure that he is buried in England, and told his children to “be brave.” In the comments – made recently during a rare, closely monitored visit by Britain’s ambassador to Ethiopia – 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 UN has condemned Mr Tsege’s ordeal and ordered Ethiopia to release him, but the British government – a close ally of Ethiopia – 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.
Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at legal charity Reprieve, said:
“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.”
Notes to editors
1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization with offices in London and New York City. For more information, contact Reprieve’s press office (UK): alice [DOT] gillham [AT] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8140 and (US) firstname.lastname@example.org / +1 917 855 8064
2. Andy Tsege’s comments are available on request.