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For immediate release: Fri, April 3, 2015
Foreign Secretary refuses to request death-row Brit’s release
The Foreign Secretary is refusing to request the release of a British citizen who was kidnapped and rendered to Ethiopia over nine months ago, it’s emerged.
Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, a father of three from London, has been held at a secret location in Ethiopia since he was abducted in June 2014 while in transit at Sanaa airport, Yemen. A prominent critic of human rights abuses in Ethiopia, Mr Tsege faces a death sentence imposed in absentia in 2009. The Ethiopian government has refused to say whether it will carry out the sentence or not, and has refused requests to visit Mr Tsege in prison by his family, British officials, and lawyers at human rights organization Reprieve.
The Foreign Office has told lawyers from Reprieve and law firm Leigh Day – which are assisting Mr Tsege’s family – that instead of requesting his release, it will press Ethiopia to follow ‘due process’. The Foreign Secretary is also refusing to treat Mr Tsege’s ordeal as a kidnapping and torture case, though internal Foreign Office emails unearthed earlier this year noted the ‘real risk of torture’ faced by Mr Tsege in Ethiopia, and revealed that British officials believed Ethiopia’s actions to be unlawful.
Mr Tsege has not been seen since December 19 2014, when the British government was granted a brief and heavily monitored meeting. Since his disappearance, the Ethiopian state broadcaster has aired several videos of him in detention looking gaunt and tired, raising concerns that he may be being tortured. According to a 2013 report by Human Rights Watch, such mistreatment is routine in Ethiopian prisons – particularly in jails holding the government’s perceived opponents, such as Mr Tsege.
Maya Foa, head of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “The UK’s failure to even ask for Andy Tsege’s release over the past nine months is nothing short of a scandal. We’re talking about the illegal kidnap, rendition and possible torture of a British citizen – and a father of young children – by a government that had already sentenced him to death on trumped up, politically-motivated charges. The government of Ethiopia is supposed to be a close ally, but its refusal to reveal where Andy is being held, or how he’s being treated, shows only contempt for the UK, and for Andy’s rights. The Foreign Office must change course and demand Andy is returned to his family in London, before it’s too late.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Alice Gillham in Reprieve’s press office: +44 7792 351 660