‘BRING HIM HOME’ Family of Brit activist on death row in Ethiopia slam Foreign Office for not doing enough to save the dad-of-three
By BRITTANY VONOW 24th January 2017, 11:45 AM, The Sun
THE family of a Brit activist facing the death sentence in Ethiopia have slammed the Foreign Office for not doing enough to free him after spending a third Christmas without him.
Father-of-three Andargachew, known as Andy, Tsege was kidnapped in June 2014 and held in secret detention for more than a year after being sentenced to death in 2009 for being part of the political opposition.
But as he continues to languish in an African jail, his family living in Islington, London, have desperately appealed for his release, blasting the Foreign Office for not doing more.
In a heartfelt letter to Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Tobias Ellwood, Andy’s partner Yemi Hailemariam wrote: “I don’t have to explain how heartbroken we are, and how the life of our family has been turned upside down in the last two years.
“Spending a third Christmas without Andy was particularly difficult for us.”
Andy, who was a political dissident during his time in Ethiopia, was granted political asylum in the UK in 1979 and has lived in Britain since then.
He was abducted in June 2014 while travelling to visit Eritrea before being moved to the Kality prison outside Addis Abiba.
Yemi went on, saying: “You say that seeking Andy’s release could ‘jeopardise the progress’ made on his case; but from where I am standing, there has been very little progress.
“Andy is still held under sentence of death, and the Ethiopian Prime Minister has said it is not possible to appeal this sentence – meaning the FCO’s focus on finding Andy a lawyer has no hope of ending his ordeal.
“The Ethiopian Government has still faced no real challenge to its outrageous actions in his case.”
She said that she had been “disappointed” in the apparent lack of working to secure her husband’s release, with her now raising teen daughter Holly and twins Menabe and Yilak, alone.
The determined woman has called on the Foreign Office to make a stronger stand and rethink their approach at securing Andy’s release.
She said: “You will surely be aware that Ethiopia’s crackdown on dissent is showing no signs of abating, and that Andy’s situation seems likely to only get worse if he remains where he is. We are so worried about him.
“He is stuck in a legal black hole when he should, by rights, have been home with us long ago.
“Ethiopia remains one of the closest partners of the UK, and yet this charade has been going on for nearly three years.
“Surely it is possible to take a much firmer line with the Ethiopian authorities, and show that you want Andy to be returned home to his family, where he belongs.”
She said she was hopeful to arrange a meeting with Ellwood to discuss the situation.
Maya Foa, a director at Reprieve which has been assisting Mr Tsege, said: “The UK government needs to stand up for this British father of three who was kidnapped abroad and now faces execution in Ethiopia.
“The Foreign Office must urgently listen to Andy’s family, and use this week’s visit to secure his return home to London. If our government fail him, then Brits abroad just aren’t safe anymore.”
An FCO spokesperson told the Sun Online: “The British Government has provided significant support to Mr Tsege and his family, and to suggest otherwise is simply incorrect.
“We lobbied for many months to secure a move from solitary confinement to a federal prison, and this was achieved in July 2015. From the moment we heard about his detention we pressed for consular access and have now been able to visit Mr Tsege a number of times.”
They added: “The Foreign Secretary has made it clear to the Ethiopian Government that Mr Tsege must be given access to legal representation, as agreed by Prime Minister Hailemariam in June. And we will press them on this matter until they follow through on their commitment.
“There has been an high level of engagement with Mr Tsege’s family in the UK throughout this case, and we will continue to support them.
“The Foreign Secretary has offered to meet Mr Tsege’s partner, Ms Hailemariam.”
The family has previously begged those in leadership positions to help secure the release of their father.
The daughter of Andy, Menabe, wrote to the Queen in 2015, begging for her father to be released.
In the letter, the then eight-year-old said: “I am writing to ask your assistance in these troubled times to bring my father back would be asking too much.”