UN demands release of British activist jailed in Ethiopia amid torture fears

The Foreign Office has pushed for consular access to Andargachew Tsige with no tangible results, since the British citizen was abducted in Ethiopia a year ago

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The UN has demanded the immediate release of a Briton held on death row in Ethiopia for more than a year, an intervention that campaigners say exposes Britain’s poor diplomacy towards the case.

Experts from the UN Human Rights Council have advised Ethiopia to pay Andargachew Tsige “adequate compensation” before sending him home to London, an abrupt hardening of its position on the case at a time when Britain pursues a softly, softly approach with no tangible reward.

Internal Foreign Office emails, disclosed for the first time, reveal that even before Tsige was kidnapped and jailed in an unknown location in June 2014, British officials had voiced fears at “the real risk of torture if [Tsige is] returned to Ethiopia”, along with “fair trial concerns”.

An eight-page judgment from the UNHRC’s working group on arbitrary detention handed to Ethiopia suggests such fears have been realised, saying that there is “reliable evidence on a possible situation of physical abuse and mistreatment which could amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

Tsige, 60, a father of three from London, and known to friends as Andy, was arrested in Yemen’s main airport while in transit and forcibly removed to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

He is prominent in Ethiopian politics, having been leader of opposition party Ginbot 7, which has called for democracy, free elections and civil rights. The government has accused him of being a terrorist and in 2009 he was tried in his absence and sentenced to death.

Foreign secretary Philip Hammond has refused to demand his urgent release, preferring to push for consular access, a request rejected by Ethiopia. Tsige’s partner, Yemi Hailemariam, also a British national, who lives in London with their children, has spoken to him just once by telephone since his abduction.

Another internal government email from the UK ambassador to Ethiopia to Laurence Robertson MP, who heads the all-party parliamentary group on Ethiopia, describes the Ethiopians as “obdurate”.

Hammond recently attempted to harden up the UK’s position on Tsige, calling for rapid progress in the case, but campaigners say this remains significantly short of what is required. Another recent Foreign Office statement made no mention of Tsige, but welcomed the “generally peaceful environment” of the recent Ethiopian elections, which saw the government locking up political opponents and journalists.

Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at legal charity Reprieve, said: “Despite the injustices that have been – and continue to be – committed against this British national, the foreign secretary refuses to ask for Andy’s release and his return back home to his family in Britain.

“The UN is right to be taking action and demanding Andy’s immediate release from his unlawful detention. The UK’s refusal to do the same is an unacceptable abdication of responsibility to one of its citizens.”

Kevin Laue of the human rights organisation Redress, which helps torture survivors, said: “The UK government should be outraged by this behaviour and should be responding in the strongest possible terms.” A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The foreign secretary has raised this case with the Ethiopian foreign minister on 13 separate occasions, most recently on 29 April 2015. The minister for Africa raised this again on 11 June. We will continue to lobby at all levels, conveying our concern over Andargachew Tsige being detained without regular consular visits and access to a lawyer.”

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/05/un-demands-release-british-activist-death-row-ethiopia

UK Foreign secretary warns Ethiopia over treatment of Andargachew Tsige

By Owen Bowcott | The Guardian

Foreign secretary condemns detention of Andargachew Tsige in solitary confinement with no access to consular help or right to appeal

The treatment of a Briton on death row in Ethiopia is threatening to undermine the country’s relationship with the UK, the foreign secretary has warned.

In an unusually blunt statement, Philip Hammond has called for rapid progress in the case of Andargachew Tsige, who is being held in solitary confinement in an unknown location in Ethiopia.

The foreign secretary’s comments, released a year after Tsige was abducted while transiting through Yemen, is a clear sign of official disapproval of the approach taken by the regime in Addis Abbaba. The Foreign Office is escalating the case beyond confidential diplomatic exchanges.

On Wednesday, Hammond spoke to the Ethiopian foreign minister, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, about the case on the phone. His statement said: “I am deeply concerned that, a year after he was first detained, British national Andargachew Tsige remains in solitary confinement in Ethiopia without a legal process to challenge his detention.

“I am also concerned for his welfare and disappointed that our repeated requests for regular consular access have not been granted, despite promises made.

“I spoke to foreign minister Tedros and made clear that Ethiopia’s failure to grant our repeated and basic requests is not acceptable. I informed Dr Tedros that the lack of progress risks undermining the UK’s much valued bilateral relationship with Ethiopia.

“I asked Dr Tedros once again to permit immediate regular consular access and for our concerns regarding Mr Tsige’s welfare to be addressed. I have also asked that the Ethiopian authorities facilitate a visit by Mr Tsige’s family. Foreign Office officials will continue to provide consular support both to Mr Tsige and to his family during this difficult time.”

Tsige’s partner, Yemi Hailemariam, also a British national, lives in London with their three children. She has spoken to him only once by phone since his abduction.

“He’s in prison but we have no idea where he is being held,” she told the Guardian last month. “He said he was okay, but I’m sure the call was being listened to. He had been in Dubai and was flying on to Eritrea when the plane stopped over in Yemen. He hadn’t even been through immigration. We think Yemeni security took him and handed him over to the Ethiopians.

“They say there was an extradition agreement, but it was so quick there was no time for any semblance of a legal hearing. Yemen and Ethiopia had close relations then. The [Ethiopian] government have put him on television three times in heavily edited interviews, saying he was revealing secrets.

“He has been kept under artificial light 24 hours a day and no one [other than the UK ambassador] has had access to him.”

Tsige, 60 – known as Andy – had previously been secretary general of Ginbot 7, a political opposition party that called for democracy, free elections and civil rights. He first came to the UK in 1979.

The Ethiopian government has accused him of being a terrorist. In 2009, he was tried with others in his absence and sentenced to death. The latest reports suggest that his health is deteriorating.

His lawyer, Ben Cooper, of Doughty Street Chambers, said: “We welcome the Foreign Secretary condemning the illegality of Andy Tsige’s detention, confirming the fact of his solitary confinement and demanding consular visits. But we have a simple ask: please request Andy Tsige’s return home to his family in London. Mr Tsige was kidnapped by Ethiopia at an international airport and the only remedy for kidnap is release. Why has Mr Hammond not yet asked Ethiopia to release Andy so he can return home to England?”

Juan Méndez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, has written to the Ethiopian and UK governments saying he is investigating Tsige’s treatment.

Who is Andargachew Tsige?

Andargachew, or Andy, Tsige fled Addis Abbaba in the 1970s following threats against his life from the military regime, the Derg, which then controlled Ethiopia.

A student activist, he had attracted the attention of the authorities. His younger brother was killed by the security forces. Tsige escaped into the mountains to join opposition groups.

In 1979, after falling out with fellow rebels, he sought asylum in the UK. He studied at the University of Greenwich and obtained full UK citizenship.

Tsige returned to Ethiopia after the Derg was overthrown but moved back to the UK in the early 1990s where he became active in opposition politics.

In 2005, he returned to Addis Abbaba again. He took part in that year’s election and was briefly imprisoned. after being freed, he founded a new political movement, Ginbot 7, from his exile in London.

The organisation was alleged by the Ethiopian government to have launched a failed coup in 2009. Tsige was condemned to death in his absence.

In June 2014, he had flown to the Gulf to give lectures. An unexpected change to his return route saw him fly back via Yemen where he changed planes. At Sana’a airport, he was arrested by guards and put on a plane to Ethiopia on the grounds that there was an extradition agreement between the two countries.

Supporters say that had he been born white and in the UK, the Foreign Office would have taken a more forceful line in campaigning for his release from death row in east Africa.

His partner, Yemisrach Hailemariam, and their three children live in London. She has campaigned actively for his freedom.

In February a delegation of MPs, led by Jeremy Corbyn, his local member, was scheduled to visit Ethiopia in an attempt to secure his release. The trip was abandoned following a meeting with the Ethiopian ambassador.

Ethiopia-British leader on death row ‘might’ escape execution: government

By AFP

An Ethiopian opposition leader with British citizenship on death row will not be pardoned but might escape execution, the government said Thursday, after reports he was struggling in solitary confinement.
Andargachew Tsege, 60, the leader of the outlawed Ginbot 7 group and who was granted political asylum in Britain, was convicted in absentia in 2009 for terrorism, and was imprisoned a year ago after being controversially extradited from Yemen.

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“Death sentences are very rarely carried out by the court in Ethiopia. His sentence might be commuted to life imprisonment, but he won’t be pardoned, he won’t be released,” government spokesman Shimeles Kemal told AFP.
“He is an incorrigible criminal and a recidivist who tried to overthrow the Ethiopian government, plant bombs and who organized unrest after the 2005 elections.”
Ethiopia accuses him of also training opposition groups in neighbouring long-term foe Eritrea.
Andargachew, known as Andy, was arrested on June 2014 in Yemen’s Sanaa airport en route to Eritrea, and controversially extradited to Addis Ababa, an action criticised by Britain for being in defiance of international law.
Britain is one of Ethiopia’s largest donors, with development aid totalling some 303 million pounds (482 million dollars, 422 million euros) for the period 2015-2016.
The British ambassador to Ethiopia last saw him on April 24, the third visit permitted to diplomats since his imprisonment.
A report this week by London’s The Independent newspaper quoted a Foreign Office report of the meeting, in which it said Andargachew is being held in solitary confinement.
“Andargachew looks physically in reasonable shape but has health concerns. And he appears in a bad place psychologically. No evidence of mistreatment, other than the solitary nature of his confinement,” the report read, according to The Independent.
The report left his wife, who is looking after their three children, at “breaking point”, the newspaper added.
London has requested he be moved to a normal jail.
“The Foreign Secretary is extremely concerned about Andargachew Tsege’s continued detention. That is why he has raised his case with the Ethiopian Foreign Minister on 13 separate occasions,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.
“We will continue to lobby at all levels, conveying our concern over Andargachew Tsege being detained without regular consular visits and access to a lawyer.”
Rights groups have criticised Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law, accusing the government of using it to silence dissent and curb freedom of expression.
The Ginbot 7 group is considered a terrorist organisation under Ethiopian law. Its name commemorates the Ethiopian calendar date — May 15 in the Gregorian calendar — when post-election violence in 2005 left over 200 people dead.

Andy Tsege: Fears grow over state of mind of British activist who languishes in Ethiopian jail

By JONATHAN OWEN

Fears are growing for the state of mind of a British father of three who has languished in a secret jail in Ethiopia for almost a year.

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Andargachew “Andy” Tsege, who has been sentenced to death, reportedly told the British ambassador during a rare visit: “Seriously, I am happy to go – it would be preferable and more humane.”
Next week marks the first anniversary of Mr Tsege, a leading opponent of the Ethiopian regime, being imprisoned during a trip to Africa.
Amid growing concerns for the 60-year-old Briton’s well-being, he was visited by ambassador Greg Dorey on in April.
A report of the ambassador’s visit was sent to Mr Tsege’s partner, Yemi Hailemariam, the mother of their three children.

The details it contains, combined with a lack of any progress since the visit was made, have left her at “breaking point” she told The Independent yesterday.
Ms Hailemariam was warned by Sarah Winter, head of country casework at the Foreign Office: “Some bits of this report will be distressing. Please make sure you read it when you’ve got good support around you.”
The visit was not held in the jail where Mr Tsege is being kept in solitary confinement, and took place in front of security officials. “Andargachew looks physically in reasonable shape but has health concerns. And he appears in a bad place psychologically. No evidence of mistreatment, other than the solitary nature of his confinement,” states the report.

Mr Dorey recalls Mr Tsege commenting: “Seriously, I am happy to go – it would be preferable and more humane. I said I doubted the government would wish to execute him and that in any event we would lobby strongly against this as a matter of principle.”
Mr Tsege saw no reason to stay alive, according to the report. “He was aware of the wider debate on euthanasia and could ask for this: it would relieve the pain,” it adds.
Mr Tsege, who is in solitary confinement, also told the ambassador that prison guards feared he might harm himself but he had not attempted this.

Mr Tsege’s partner Yemi, who lives in north London, described her shock at seeing the report: “The FCO had told me the content of the readout, I was sad but it does not compare to how I felt when I saw it in black and white. I was very devastated.”
Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond has written to his Ethiopian counterpart to warn that relations between Britain and Ethiopia would be jeopardised if anything happened to Mr Tsege. He is understood to have called for the Briton to be transferred to a normal prison, be allowed regular visits and be treated by a doctor.
But Ms Hailemariam said: “Now we are two months later and nothing has changed. I am at a breaking point… What is it about this case that does not make the ambassador be absolutely outraged that he is being treated the way he is by the Ethiopian government? What is it about us as a family that makes it so not worth it for the Foreign Secretary to change tack and just ‘keep raising it’ without any substantive result?”
Pressure is building on the Government to demand the release of Mr Tsege. The case is being looked at by Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture. And Reprieve is calling for the Briton to be freed and returned to the UK.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/andy-tsege-fears-grow-over-state-of-mind-of-british-activist-who-languishes-in-ethiopian-jail-10324566.html

UN investigates Briton on death row in Ethiopia

Special rapporteur on torture asks UK and Ethiopian governments about detention of Andargachew Tsige amid claims of ill-treatment

Yemi Hailemariam outside the Foreign Commonwealth Office
Yemi Hailemariam outside the Foreign Commonwealth Office to demand the release of her partner, Andargachew Tsege, who is being held in in Ethiopia. Photograph: Alamy

The detention of a British citizen held on death row in Ethiopia for almost a year is being investigated by the United Nations official responsible for preventing torture.

Andargachew Tsige was arrested last June while in transit through Yemen’s main airport and forcibly removed to Addis Ababa. He is the leader of an opposition party and had been condemned to death several years earlier in his absence.

Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, has written to the Ethiopian and UK governments saying he is investigating the treatment of Tsige. There are claims Tsige is being deprived of sleep and held in isolation.

His partner, Yemi Hailemariam, also a British national, who lives in London with their three children, said she had only spoken to him once by telephone since his abduction. “He’s in prison but we have no idea where he is being held,” she said. “He said he was OK but I’m sure the call was being listened to.

“He had been in Dubai and was flying on to Eritrea when the plane stopped over in Yemen. He hadn’t even been through immigration. We think Yemeni security took him and handed him over to the Ethiopians.

“They say there was an extradition agreement but it was so quick there was no time for any semblance of a legal hearing. Yemen and Ethiopia had close relations then. The [Ethiopian] government have put him on television three times in heavily edited interviews, saying he was revealing secrets

“He has been kept under artificial light 24 hours a day and no one [other than the UK ambassador] has had access to him. I feel angry with the Foreign Office. They know they could do more. They have political leverage they could use but have not done so.”

Tsige, 60, known as Andy, had previously been secretary general of Ginbot 7, a political opposition party that called for democracy, free elections and civil rights. He first came to the UK in 1979. The Ethiopian government has accused him of being a terrorist. In 2009, he was tried with others in his absence and sentenced to death.

No effort was made to extradite him to face the court. A US embassy cable, released through WikiLeaks, described the trial as “lacking in basic elements of due process”.

“[Andy] is a politician, not a terrorist,” said Hailemariam. “It’s just the Ethiopian government that thinks it does not need to make any space for the opposition. A delegation of British MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn, were stopped from travelling to Ethiopia in February. They are hoping to try again.”

Tsige was accused by the Ethiopian government of being a terrorist. In 2009, he was tried in his absence and sentenced to death.

Tsige was accused by the Ethiopian government of being a terrorist. He was tried in his absence in 2009 and sentenced to death. Photograph: Alamy

Hailemariam’s dissatisfaction with the UK government’s response follows the release of internal Foreign Office memorandums earlier this year that appeared to show official reluctance to apply pressure on Ethiopia to obtain Tsige’s release.

The UK prime minister, David Cameron, has, however, written a letter to his Ethiopian counterpart, Hailemariam Desalegn, raising concerns about Tsige.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The foreign secretary has raised this case with the Ethiopian foreign minister on 13 separate occasions. We will continue to lobby at all levels, conveying our concern over Andargachew Tsige being detained without regular consular visits and access to a lawyer.”

Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team said: “Andy Tsige was illegally kidnapped and rendered to Ethiopia, where he has now been held in a secret location for nearly a year. The UN special rapporteur is right to raise concerns about torture – especially given Ethiopia’s terrible record on human rights, and their denial of any meaningful consular access.

“It is crucial that the British government now takes stronger action on this case. The way Andy has been treated is in serious violation of international law and the most basic principles of justice – the UK must push for his immediate release.”

Tsige’s lawyer, the barrister Ben Cooper of Doughty Street chambers, said: “[He] was abducted at an international airport, hooded and rendered to Ethiopia, where he has been held incommunicado under a death sentence that was passed unlawfully in his absence. He remains in isolation nearly a year later with only occasional access to the open air.

“His detention violates all minimum standards of treatment. We ask the Foreign Office to follow the lead of the UN special rapporteur on torture to demand an immediate end to Mr Tsege’s torture by seeking his return home to his family in England. This is a clear case of kidnap and should be treated as such.”

Elections are taking place in Ethiopia this weekend. Tsige’s family hopes the government will relax restrictions on the opposition once voting is over.

In a lengthy statement, the Ethiopian embassy said that Ginbot 7 had been proscribed a terrorist organisation by the country’s parliament. Tsige, as general secretary, it added, was charged with “conspiring to perpetrate terror and violence in Ethiopia by planning, training, financing, and organising terrorist recruits in Eritrea” and found guilty of “conspiring and working with and under Ginbot 7, to overthrow the legitimate government of Ethiopia through terrorist acts”.

Following conviction and sentence, the embassy continued, the government sent a formal request of assistance to those states with which Ethiopia has an extradition treaty, requesting them to transfer all sentenced individuals in the event of their presence on their territory.

“It was on the basis of this request, and the existing extradition treaty with the Republic of Yemen, that [he] was extradited to Ethiopia. Accordingly, [he] is currently in detention at the federal prison,” it said.

The statement added: “Mr Tsige was serving as a Trojan horse, assisting the Eritrean government’s repeated and ongoing attempts to wreak havoc and instability in the sub-region. Mr Tsige is well-treated and has received visits from the British ambassador to Ethiopia. He has also spoken to his family on the phone.”

Andargachew Tsige: Ethiopian brutality, British apathy

By GRAHAM PEEBLES

A UK citizen who was a refugee from the one-party state that is Ethiopia has been spirited back into its clutches. Why is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office doing so little?

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On 23 June 2014 Andargachew Tsige was illegally detained at Sana’a airport in Yemen, while travelling from Dubai to Eritrea on his UK passport. He was swiftly handed over to the Ethiopian authorities, who had for years posted his name at the top of the regime’s ‘most wanted’ list. Since then he has been detained incommunicado at a secret location in Ethiopia. His ‘crime’ is the same as that of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others—publicly criticising the brutality of the Ethiopian ruling party.

Born in Ethiopia in 1955, Tsige arrived in Britain aged 24, as a political refugee. He is a black, working-class UK citizen, married with three children. Despite repeated efforts—including demonstrations, petitions and a legal challenge— by his family and the wider Ethiopian community, the British government has done little or nothing to secure this innocent man’s release or ensure his safe treatment in detention. The UK is the third biggest donor to Ethiopia, giving around £376m a year in aid.

After nine months of official indifference, among Tsige’s supporters trust and faith in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is giving way to cynicism and anger. Is the neglect due to his colour or his quality of ‘Britishness’, in an implicit hierarchy of citizenship? If he had been born in England, to white, middle-class parents, attended the right schools (over half the British cabinet was educated privately) and forged the right social connections, would he be languishing in an Ethiopian prison, where he is almost certainly being tortured, abused and mistreated?

Consistently ignored
Tsige is the secretary general of Ginbot 7, a peaceful campaign group which fiercely opposes the policies of the Ethiopian party-state, controlled for 24 years by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). It highlights the regime’s many and varied human-rights violations and calls for adherence to liberal ideals of justice and freedom, as enshrined in the country’s constitution—a broadly democratic piece of fiction which is consistently ignored by the ruling party (even through the EPRDF wrote it).

Political dissent inside Ethiopia has been criminalised in all but name. Freedoms of assembly, of expression and of the media are all denied; so too is affiliation to opposition parties. Aid that flows through the government is distributed on a partisan basis, as are employment opportunities and university places. The media are almost exclusively state-owned and internet access (at 2% the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa) is monitored and restricted. The government would criminalise thought if it could.

At what point, indeed, does neglect in the face of injustice and abuse become complicity?

The population lives under suffocating repression and fear; the vast bulk appears to despise the government. Human rights are ignored and acts of state violence—some of which, according to human-rights groups, constitute crimes against humanity—are commonplace. It is this stifling reality of daily suffering which drives Tsige and other members of Ginbot 7, forcing them to speak out—action that has cost him his liberty.

For challenging the EPRDF, in 2009 and 2012, he was charged under the notorious Anti-Terrorist Proclamation of 2009, tried in absentia and given the death penalty. The judiciary in Ethiopia is constitutionally and morally bound to independence but in practice it operates as an unjust arm of the EPRDF. A trial where the defendant is not present violates the second principle of natural justice, audi alteram partem (hear the other party). Again, however, the EPRDF, having dutifully signed up to all manner of international covenants, ignores them all.

The regime likes trying its detractors who live overseas (activists, journalists, political opponents) in their absence and securing outrageous judgements against them, particularly the death penalty or life imprisonment. It rules by that ancient tool of control—fear.

In relation to Tsige, or indeed anyone else in custody, little in the way of justice, compassion or fairness can thus be expected. Self-deluding and immune to criticism, the EPRDF distorts the truth and justifies violent repression and false imprisonment as safeguarding the country from ‘terrorism’—a phenomenon only evidenced by the thugs, in and out of uniform, which the party-state deploys.

Constitutional responsibility

Tsige is a UK citizen and the UK government has a constitutional and moral responsibility to act robustly on his behalf. In February a delegation of parliamentarians, led by Jeremy Corbyn, his local MP, was due to visit Ethiopia in an effort to secure his release. But the trip was abandoned after a meeting with the Ethiopian ambassador. A member of the team, Lord Dholakia, vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Ethiopia, said it was made clear that they would not be welcome: the ambassador reportedly told them “that there was no need for them to go to Ethiopia as the case is being properly handled by the courts”.

Tsige however has yet to be formally charged, has been denied contact with his British solicitors, and consular support, and has received only one brief visit from the British ambassador, last August—a meeting controlled by the Ethiopians. The FCO has said it is “deeply concerned” about Ethiopia’s refusal to allow regular consular visits and Tsige’s lack of access to a lawyer and others seeking to visit him. But ‘do something’ is the cry from the family and the wider community.

At what point, indeed, does neglect in the face of injustice and abuse become complicity? If a government gives funds to a government, effectively the EPRDF, which is killing, raping, imprisoning and torturing its own citizens, and then does nothing, it is complicit in the crimes thus being committed.

British Members of Parliament to visit Ethiopia in bid to secure release of Andargachew Tsege

By JONATHAN OWEN, The Independent

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A delegation of British MPs will visit Ethiopia next month in a bid to secure the release of Andargachew “Andy” Tsege, a British father of three who is under a death sentence.
Mr Tsege, 59, a leading critic of the Ethiopian government who came to Britain as a political refugee more than 30 years ago, has been held in solitary confinement for the past six months.
He vanished during a stopover in Yemen last June, during a trip from Dubai to Eritrea, in what campaigners say was a politically motivated kidnapping. Weeks later it emerged he had been imprisoned in Ethiopia.
His precise whereabouts remain unknown.
The Briton, who is the secretary-general of a banned Ethiopian opposition movement, is facing a death sentence imposed at a trial held in his absence in 2009.
The announcement of the visit by British Parliamentarians, yesterday, is in stark contrast to the efforts of Prime Minister David Cameron, whose response to desperate pleas for help from Mr Tsege’s family last year was to write a letter to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister.
Jeremy Corbyn, vice-chair, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights, and Mr Tsege’s constituency MP, will lead the delegation. “He is a British citizen so there is no reason on earth why the British government should not take a very robust view on this,” he said. His constituent is “a British national in prison with no understandable, comprehensible or acceptable legal process that’s put him there.”
And Clive Stafford-Smith, director, Reprieve, who will accompany the MPs to Ethiopia, said: “I think Mr Cameron doesn’t understand how serious this is. I think that Andy is going to be seen, as the years go by, as Ethiopia’s Nelson Mandela.”
Campaigners fear that Mr Tsege is being tortured and concern is mounting for his wellbeing. His sister Bezuaybhu said: “He’s in his cell for 24 hours a day, with an electric light, he’s having no exercise, he’s not having contact with anybody – so if this is not torture what is it?” Her brother has been “kidnapped, detained illegally” and should be brought back to Britain, she added.
In a statement a Foreign Office spokesperson said: “The Ethiopians have not allowed us further access than the two consular visits on 11 August and 19 December, though we continue in our efforts to secure this.” The British government is “deeply concerned” about his detention and is “pressing  the Ethiopian authorities” not to carry out the death penalty, they added.
Six months after his capture, Mr Tsege’s family is finding it increasingly hard to cope. His partner Yemi Hailemariam, mother of their three children, said: “We are very ordinary family caught up in this very extraordinary problem and we just don’t know how to get ourselves out of it.” She added: “It just breaks my heart to think he will be celebrating his 60th birthday in three weeks’ time in prison.”
The only contact she has had in six months was a short telephone call Mr Tsege made last month. “He primarily focused on the kids saying that I should not give them false hope. I told him to keep well and strong. He said he is fine. I asked him where he was, he said he was still there [Ethiopia],” she told The Independent.
“It is very, very, difficult to keep things going; I do have my low points. I try just to block a lot of things out and just keep ploughing away – that’s how I’m trying to cope with it,” said Ms Hailemariam.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Ethiopian Embassy, London, claimed that Mr Tsege belongs to a “terrorist organization” seeking to “overthrow the legitimate government of Ethiopia.” He is being “well treated” and “torture is inhumane and has no place in modern Ethiopia,” they added.
Yet a recent report by Amnesty International revealed how political activists have been tortured and killed by the Ethiopian security forces in recent years.