UK officials at Ethiopia summit ‘too busy’ to raise case of death-sentence Brit

February 9, 2015

Image of Andy Tsege

British officials broke a promise to use a major summit in Addis Ababa to raise the case of a Briton held in secret Ethiopian detention, it’s emerged.

Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, 60 years old today, is a British father of three who was abducted at an airport in June 2014 and rendered to Ethiopia, where he has been held at a secret location since. Mr Tsege is a prominent critic of the Ethiopian government, and faces a death sentence handed down in 2009 in absentia. The Ethiopian government has aired several videos of Mr Tsege on state television, but continues to refuse to allow visits by UK consular staff to him in prison.

The Foreign Office (FCO) had pledged to Mr Tsege’s family in London that British diplomats attending the African Union summit, held two weeks ago in Addis Ababa, would press their Ethiopian counterparts for access to Mr Tsege and ‘due process’ in his case. But days later, an email sent to Mr Tsege’s partner Yemi from a UK official said that the summit had been “unbelievably busy” and that “it wasn’t possible to have a bilateral meeting.”

Last week, immediately following the summit, the Ethiopian ambassador refused a request by Mr Tsege’s MP, Jeremy Corbyn, to visit Ethiopia to see his constituent. Mr Corbyn and the family of Mr Tsege will today deliver to Downing Street a petition of nearly 70,000 signatures calling on the government to secure his release.

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:

“The government’s continued failure to help Andy Tsege is breathtaking. Time and time again, ministers have squandered the opportunity to raise Andy’s case with their Ethiopian counterparts – while the Ethiopian government continues to block all requests even to visit him in his unknown prison. This is a British citizen who has been subjected to a litany of serious abuses, who faces potential execution, and who has been repeatedly paraded on Ethiopian TV bearing signs of torture. The British government must protest this outrage and demand Andy’s return to the UK, before it’s too late.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Alice Gillham in Reprieve’s press office: +44 207 553 8160 / alice.gillham [AT] reprieve.org.uk

2. FCO correspondence relating to the African Union summit is available on request.

3. Mr Tsege’s family will deliver their petition to 10 Downing Street at 4.30pm today (9th). The petition can be viewed here.