Lawmakers from US, EU and UK demand release of death-row Brit in Ethiopia
August 8, 2015
A group of legislators from the US, UK and Europe have demanded the release of a British activist who has been held in a secret Ethiopian prison for over a year.
Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege, a prominent figure in the Ethiopian opposition, was abducted at a Yemeni airport in June 2014 and forcibly taken to Ethiopia. He has been held since in a secret location, and has been denied access to a lawyer, his family, proper consular visits and independent medical treatment. Andy was sentenced to death in absentia in 2009 on charges relating to his political activities. Torture of political prisoners in Ethiopia is common, and the UN and human rights organization Reprieve – which is assisting Mr Tsege’s family – have raised concerns that he is being mistreated.
In a letter to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn, the group – which includes US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, British MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry, Baron Dholakia of the UK House of Lords, and MEPs Ana Gomes and Richard Howitt – called Ethiopia’s behaviour “unconscionable and illegal.” Their letter says: “Your government’s treatment of [Mr Tsege] is a stain on its reputation, and threatens to isolate Ethiopia internationally. Andargachew Tsege’s ordeal has gone on long enough; we call on you to release him without delay and facilitate his return home to his family.”
The call follows recent criticism by President Obama of Ethiopia’s silencing of its critics, during his first trip to the country. Speaking at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Mr Obama said: “When journalists are put behind bars for doing their jobs, when activists are threatened – you may have democracy in name but not in substance.”
Mr Tsege, whose partner and young children are American citizens, has previously travelled to Washington DC to speak about human rights concerns in Ethiopia. He told Congress in 2006 that “the scale of repression [by the current government] has exceeded Ethiopia’s darkest hours during the military dictatorship.”
Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:
“From the White House to Congress and the European and British Parliaments, calls are growing for Ethiopia to change course and stop its persecution of dissidents like Andy. These lawmakers are right to say that Ethiopia is risking its international reputation with its shocking treatment of Andy, which has included rendition, secret detention, torture and a nakedly political and unlawful death sentence. Prime Minister Desalegn must listen, and return Andy to his family in Britain without delay.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, including copies of the parliamentarians’ letter, please contact Reprieve’s press office: 00 44 7792 351 660