Free our dad! Children demand action at Downing Street protest
By KOOS COUVÉE
Published on Islington Tribune, Friday 12
THE family of a Holloway man being held as a political prisoner in his native Ethiopia were joined by supporters and campaigners at a vigil in Westminster on Tuesday.
They lit candles and sang Happy Birthday outside 10 Downing Street to mark the 61st birthday of father-of-three Andy Tsege, a British national and democracy campaigner who has long been a critic of the Ethiopian regime. He was sentenced to death in absentia by an Ethiopian court in 2009 for “conspiring to commit terrorist acts”.
Mr Tsege’s children, Menabe and Yilak, both 8, and Helawit, 16, presented representatives of the Prime Minister with a petition signed by more than 128,000 people calling on the government to demand Mr Tsege’s return to the UK. He has been held in detention since he was rendered by the Yemeni authorities in July 2014 and there are no signs the Ethiopians are following any kind of legal process.
The children, who live in Clerkenwell with their mother Yemi Hailemariam, have not seen their father for a year-and-a-half.
At the vigil, activist Zelaleam Tessema said: “Andy was abducted from an airport and taken in captivity to a country Britain is happy to do business with, day in day out, and pay out £750m of taxpayers’ money to bankroll and underwrite repression in that part of the world.
“David Cameron, if you are on the side of justice, liberty and freedom, act now and free Andy, a British citizen, held captive for more than 600 days.”
Islington Community Theatre has produced a film in which the children tell their father what he has missed since his last birthday. It was posted on YouTube this week.
In the video, Yilak speaks of going trick-or-treating in Highbury, Menabe tells her father she has become a “great cook” while Helawit gives her father the news that she passed her GCSEs.
Islington South MP Emily Thornberry handed in the petition with the children and former Town Hall chief Catherine West, now the MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.
In December, Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond wrote to the Ethiopians requesting that they set out a timetable for the legal process.
• Additional reporting by Nadia Carrier Solomon.