30 London MPs call for Boris Johnson to bring back Islington dad on death row in Ethiopia
Boris Johnson is facing pressure from 30 London MPs to help free Islington resident and Arsenal fan Andy Tsege, who has languished for three years on death row in Ethiopia.
Mr Tsege, a British citizen who lived solely in the UK after being granted political asylum in 1979, has been held since June 2014 after being convicted of terrorism offences in absentia five years earlier and being given a sentence of death. He had been a prominent dissident.
When he was Mayor of London, Mr Johnson wrote to Mr Tsege’s partner to say he regretted that “with no foreign policy remit” he could not directly intervene – but lawmakers said that he must now do more to help.
A letter to Mr Johnson, signed by 30 MPs including Sir Vince Cable, Diane Abbott, and Harriet Harman, said: “In your role as Foreign Secretary, you are now in a position to help achieve the goal you yourself endorsed as Mayor: bringing Andy back home to his family.”
Mr Tsege, a British citizen who lived solely in the UK after being granted political asylum in 1979, was abducted from Yemen’s Sana’a International Airport on his way to visit Eritrea in June 2014. A prominent dissident, the Islington resident was convicted of terrorism offences in absentia by the Ethiopian regime in 2009 and handed a death sentence.
The Ethiopian government has insisted Mr Tsege – seized at Yemen’s Sana’a International Airport on his way to visit Eritrea in June 2014 – cannot appeal the verdict, and in September last year, the High Court rejected a case brought by his nine-year-old daughter to demand Theresa May’s government do more to help her father.
Mr Tsege’s partner Yemi Hailemariam told the Standard: “When Boris Johnson was initially appointed foreign secretary I was excited. The first thing I did was pull out that letter and write to him, ‘Do you remember…’ “
But the hope was met by disappointment. British officials have said the case falls within Ethiopia’s legal system, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has focused on securing consular visits and Ethiopian government-approved legal representation.
Ms Hailemariam slammed the approach as “idiotic” given that Mr Tsege was a victim of crime himself. She said she only hears from the father of her three children through embassy officials, who say “he is OK, according to reports – but I don’t know what OK is”.
A string of dashed hopes has left her feeling desperate at times. “It’s been an emotional yo-yo. Not so hopeful, then hopeful – and now I feel like the kids are resigned,” she added.
With such a large group of London MPs signing the letter, she said, she holds out faith that “where there’s a will there’s a way”.
Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve, told the Standard: “Andy’s partner and three children have been let down by a Foreign Secretary who has failed to negotiate his return home to London.
“This cross-party support from London’s MPs shows there is the political will in Parliament to get this British citizen back. As Mayor, Boris Johnson said he hoped that Andy would be returned home to his family soon.
“As Foreign Secretary, he needs to make it happen.”