Tag Archives: Andargachew Tsige

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.

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.

Andargachew Tsgie Before the T-TPLF Inquisition?

By al mariam

Andy Tsgie

“Cirque d’Andargachew” presented by the Ringling T-TPLF Brothers

Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) is often credited with the observation that one should “judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”

Voltaire also wisely observed, “All murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” How true! The late Meles Zenawi and the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF) have murdered thousands of people in Ethiopia and gotten away to the merry trumpets of their Western bankrollers.

Last week, the T-TPLF released a 10-minute and 31-second amateurishly stitched video of “answers” given by Andargachew Tsigie  to unstated questions put to him by a faceless  interrogator(s), and expressly invited viewers to render a “judgment of conscience”.

In July 2014, the T-TPLF successfully plotted with the Yemeni regime to arrange the extraordinary rendition (kidnapping) of Andargachew Tsigie, who is the General Secretary of the Ethiopian opposition group known as Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy. In 2009 and 2012, the T-TPLF tried Andargachew in absentia on trumped up terrorism charges in kangaroo (monkey) court proceedings and sentenced him to death.

I condemned Andargachew’s outrageous and illegal abduction in Yemen in mycommentary entitled, “Ethiopia: The Crime of Extraordinary Rendition”.    

Andy Tsgie

Andargachew is a British national of Ethiopian origin.  It is a shame he is a British national in name only. The British Government has done absolutely nothing to secure his release or to ensure that he is not subjected to abuse and mistreatment at the infamous  Meles Zenawi Prison.  For over six months, the British Government has been twiddling thumbs as Andargachew is trotted out for exhibition in the Ringling T-TPLF Brothers media circus freak show.

The British Government has completely failed in its obligations to protect Andargachew under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The British Government speaks with forked tongue on the issue of protection of its nationals who need assistance abroad. British officials say “provision of assistance by consular officials or diplomatic authorities to nationals in difficulty overseas” is their bedrock policy. They also say consular assistance is not a legal right to which UK nationals are entitled:  “The UK Government is under no general obligation under domestic or international law to provide consular assistance (or exercise diplomatic protection).”  They further claim consular intervention to protect their nationals abroad facing or likely to face torture is an integral to the British Government’s anti-torture strategy. The English aristocrat, writer, poet and soldier Sir Walter Raleigh aptly remarked, “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!”

The British Foreign Office knows Andargachew has been sentenced to death twice in the T-TPLF’s kangaroo (monkey) courts and highly likely to face torture. All it has done so far is express regrets and issue fuzzy and equivocal statements about making “consistent requests for information from the Yemeni authorities”, complain about the “the lack of any notification of his detention in contravention of the Vienna convention” and express “our concerns about the death penalty that Mr. Tsige could face in Ethiopia.” According to one report, “Mr. Simmonds (Africa Minister) expressed deep concern that the Ethiopian authorities had not allowed consular access.”

“Whoopty freaking doo!”, as Yankees like to say. Big deal! Nice display of Crocodile tears by the British Foreign Office. I (don’t) wonder if there is a double standard in the protection of British citizens facing torture based on whether they are first class or second-class citizens. Let me cut to the chase.What has the British Government done to secure the rights or release of one of its second class citizens abused by thugs in Ethiopia?  Bloody ‘ell, nothing!

Anyway, back to the T-TPLF and its media Cirque d’Andargachew.

I accepted the explicit invitation extended in the T-TPLF video to “render a judgment of conscience” on Andargachew. (I am aware of the irony of the conscienceless asking for a judgment of conscience.) But how do I even begin to judge Andargachew based exclusively on “answers” he gave to a faceless interrogator and unstated questions at an unknown place and time!?

It was during the Spanish (Medieval) Inquisition that a man accused of heresy was judged exclusively by his answers. (Of course, the Nazis judged a man exclusively by his answers in their show trials (Schauprozess) as did the Soviets during the Stalin purges.)  In my view, what the T-TPLF has done to Andargachew in the 10-minute 31-second video recording closely resembles the medieval inquisitions.  The Inquisition sought only one right answer to a thousand different questions put to heretics and others, “I have converted!”

The inquisitorial process began with an invitation to suspects to denounce themselves if they feared they had been heretical and also to denounce others whom they suspected to be heretics. That was often followed by an official “denunciation” (accusation) and prolonged investigation while the suspect remained in preventive custodial detention.  The inquisition proceedings were conducted secretly. The accused was either never given formal notice of the charges or given notice of the charges years after their detention. Suspected heretics remained in detention isolated and cut off from family and friends during the period of “denunciation” and investigation. The procedural rule in an Inquisition trial permitted admission of “confessions obtained by torture as validly made by the confessor’s free will” (the legal doctrine was “confessionem esse veram, non factam vi tormentorum”). An auto-da-fé  (“act of faith”) was the ritual of public penance of condemned heretics and apostates in the Inquisition, followed by the execution of the sentence imposed.

Is the T-TPLF’s video recording of Andargachew Tsigie “testimony” (“answers”) an exhibition of his self-denunciation and denunciation of his colleagues and others? Is the video “testimony” the T-TPLF’s equivalent of its own “denunciation” of Andargachew?  Is the video recording an evidentiary record of the proceedings of the T-TPLF Inquisition “trial” of Andargachew?  Are we being invited to “judge” Andargachew in the “court of our conscience” based on his video “testimony” given at a secret T-TPLF kangaroo (monkey) court trial?  Is the video recording supposed to be evidence of Andargachew’s public conversion to the T-TPLF creed of thugism? Is the video Andargachew’s auto-da-fe confessing, “I have converted to T-TPLF thugism”? Or is the video a recording of Andargachew’s final declaration and testament before the T-TPLF imposes the death sentence it had pronounced on him twice before?

Why is Andargachew being held incommunicado cut off completely from family and friends? Is he held in secret in prolonged detention without being  given notice of charges against him to show he is a heretic from the true faith of revolutionary democracy (whatever that means), or as I have  previously described it, abandonment of the the benighted path of “Melesismo”?

Article 21 (2) of the Ethiopian Constitution guarantees: “Any person in custody or a convicted prisoner shall have the right to communicate with and be visited by spouse(s), close relatives and friends, medical attendants, religious and legal counselors.” Why is Andargachew denied his constitutional rights by the T-TPLF?

Andargachew continues to be held incommunicado and without due process of law. As the stitched video shows, he has been interrogated on at least 5 different occasions for an unknown period of time. Indeed, the amateurish video is so poorly cut and spliced, it is impossible to tell how many interrogations yielded the mangled 10-minute 31-second video.

There is no question that all of Andargachew’s video interrogations were conducted under duress. He was by no means  answering questions over afternoon tea and cakes.  Any questioning of a suspect or defendant in custody by police or prosecutorial authorities is an interrogation. Any answers given, particularly if they are self-incriminatory, are  admissions or confessions which could be used against the person at trial.  Article 19 (5) of the Ethiopian Constitution protects against coerced official interrogation.  “Everyone shall have the right not to be forced to make any confessions or admissions of any evidence that may be brought against him during the trial.” Are the video recordings of Andargachew’s “confessions” prepared for his “trial” in kangaroo (monkey) court?

The video recording in which Andargachew is giving “answers” is made while Andargachew is held in custodial interrogation, incommunicado (totally isolated from family, friends and legal counsel) and without the presence of his legal counsel. Therefore, his “answers” are in fact and presumptively deemed to be the product of coercion. The fact that all suspects accused of “terrorism” by the T-TPLF have been denied the right to counsel and other constitutional rights during interrogations and subjected to physical and psychological torture is further evidence that Andargachew’s interrogation is coerced. (See my commentary, “The Crime of Extraordinary Rendition”.)

What is the ultimate “conscience of judgment” we are asked to render after viewing the video? Burn Andargachew at the stake!?

Judging Andargachew by his “answers” in a 10-minute 31-second stitched video

I am totally at a loss trying to figure out the purpose(s)  of the 10-minute patched video of “answers” given by Andargachew, or the motives underlying its release. Is it intended to show Andargachew is not a “man of steel”, that he melted under withering interrogation in the T-TPLF’s torture chambers? Is it intended to show he has been rehabilitated and re-educated in the T-TPLF torture chambers and that he is now ready to join the Thug Brotherhood?  Show Ginbot 7 is a weak organization without strong or capable leadership and substantial public support? Show Andargachew’s hypocrisy, that he really does not “believe in armed struggle” but does believe in peaceful struggle and maybe an olive branch could be extended to him and his organization?  Show his heresy from his true cause and that has no confidence in his own organization or colleagues? Show that he has contempt for other opposition leaders and organizations and even individuals? Show he has deep reverence for certain T-TPLF leaders and the T-TPLF itself? Show that he is a bad, immoral and wicked man who should not be trusted?  Show Andargachew could be regarded as a reasonable man because he “answered” the questions the “right way” and “truthfully”?

For crying out loud, could someone tell me what the hell is the point of the 10-minute 31-second video!?!

It is manifest that the 10-minute 31-second video is stitched from video segments taken on at least five different occasions. Alternatively, some of the video segments were selectively cut and spliced from one or more extended  interrogations.  The editing and cutting and splicing of the video is so bad and atrocious that some of the “answers” Andargachew gives do not even make grammatical sense let alone attest to his political beliefs and analysis of specific issues. It is also manifest that the various video segments are stitched together to give the false and misleading impression of a whole uninterrupted video recording depicting the type of person Andargachew actually is.

I invite those who released the 10-minute 31-second video to post the complete video interrogations of Andaragachew for a verdict in the court of public opinion.

The first segment of Andargachew’s video “answers” begins 20 seconds into the 10 minute 31 second video. In that segment, Andargachew is wearing what appears to be a double-sided Navy blue athletic jacket with a white collar and a single white stripe down the arms with a green undershirt with white zippers to the collar. He appears to be sitting on a chair against a whitewashed background. (It appears the interrogators took lessons from my previous analysis of their interrogation settings and sought to completely eliminate any trace of the place and time of interrogation in Andargachew’s case. They should know that by trying so hard to conceal everything, they actually reveal a whole lot. More on that later.)  There is an unopened plastic water bottle to his right on the interrogation table. This segment appears to be cut and spliced at 30, 41, 55 seconds,… 2 minutes 3 seconds and so on. They have literally chopped the original full length video so badly that one could make sense of Andargachew’s “answers” only by digitally reconstructing the images and synchronizing  the audio with the lip movement using criminal video forensic techniques.

The second segment begins at 4 minutes and 29 seconds. Andargachew is wearing what appears to be the same jacket as in the first segment but with a lighter blue T-shirt with white trim around the neck. There appears to be a silver colored electronic device partial visible on the interrogation table to his right side. This segment is also cut and spliced badly several times.

The third segment begins at 5 minutes and 20 seconds. Andargachew is wearing what appears to be a black Adidas athletic apparel with triple white stripes on the arms. The video is taken in tight shot against a white background. The interrogation table is barely visible. It has also been cut and spliced several times from a longer interrogation.

The fourth segment begins at 8 minutes and 33 seconds. Andargachew is wearing what appears to be the same blue jacket as in segments 1 and 2. It is not clear if segment 3 is a continuation of segments 1 and 2 and cut and spliced for theatrical effect to exaggerate his responses. It is also likely the video editors and those who directed the production have no idea what they were doing in this segment. (They need to take courses in propaganda film-making or something.)

The fifth segment begins at 9 minutes and 36 seconds. Andargachew is wearing what appears to be the same apparel in segments 1 and 2. The fifth segment is also cut and spliced from a longer video at different points.

The public is invited to render a “judgment of conscience” on Andargachew based on snippets and sound bites from an amateurishly stitched, cut and spliced video that was recorded at an unknown time and place before unknown persons. His “answers” are questionless.  The “answers” are edited, cut and spliced together to reveal only the portions the interrogators believed would put Andargachew in a very bad light to the viewer. Across the five video segments, Andargachew’s answers are selected to make him look apologetic, regretful, uncertain, condemnatory of his life before abduction, accusatory of his colleagues and organization, weak, unintelligent, disoriented, subdued, repentant, ashamed, contrite, mournful, crestfallen, flustered, mortified, inane, witless and on and on and on. It is on such video recorded “answers” that the T-TPLF is asking the viewer to render a “judgment of conscience” on Andargachew. Nonetheless,  I accept the invitation to render a “judgment of conscience” on Andargachew!

The trial of Andargachew Tsigie in my “court of conscience”

I hereby render my “judgment of conscience” on Andargachew Tsigie based on a representative sample of “answers” he “gave” in the 10-minute 31-second T-TPLF video. I do not doubt that my readers will judge me to be a kangaroo (monkey) court judge after you read my verdict below. In my defense, I declare that I am at least an honest and fair kangaroo (monkey) court judge.

For the record, I am rendering my “judgment of conscience” on Andargachew’s interrogation with the following disclosures and stipulations.  I am “judging”  Andargachew  on the basis of an amateurish, cut, spliced and stitched video with extremely poor quality audio.  I do not have a clue about the questions to which he is giving “answers”.  I have no idea if he gave “answers” with knowledge that his “answers” will be presented to the public for a “judgment of conscience”? I do not know if he is aware that his “answers” will be chopped up and randomly cut and spliced for public presentation to make him look bad. I do not know if he is repeating “answers” that he was given to him in advance by his interrogator(s).

I judge Andargachew without any clue about his state of mind or body. I do not know if he was drugged or subjected to mind altering substances by his interrogators before he was coerced to give his “answers”. I “judge” him without knowledge (but strong suspicion) that he has been physically or psychologically tortured or subjected to abuse and treatment into giving his “answers”. I have no clue if he had been sleep deprived before he gave his “answers” or denied food or water. (In segment 1 of the video, there is an unopened plastic water bottle.  Was that his reward at the end of the interrogation if he gave all the right “answers” or just a stage prop?) He is shown wearing dark athletic apparels in the video segments and only his face is shown. Could it be that he is clothed in such a manner to conceal any physical marks on his body?

I am “judging” Andargachew based on incomplete and manifestly doctored “answers” to unstated questions. I am “judging” him by jumping to conclusions without any knowledge of what he said or did not say in the various full interrogations. I am “judging” him without any knowledge of the places and times of his interrogation, the identity of his interrogators, the number and types of specific questions he was, whether his “answers” were responsive to specific questions, and the identity of the officials who gave the order to interrogate him and their motives for releasing it to the public soliciting a “judgment of conscience”. I am “judging” Andargachew without knowing if he is responding to one or multiple interrogators? (Looking at his rapidly shifting eye movements across the room in the various segments, it is evident that he is trying to address several persons in the interrogation room.) I am judging him based on snippets of words he spoke taken completely out of context.

So, here goes my verdict on Andargachew’s questionless answers given on Planet Thugistan.

Andargachew “testified”:  “In the past, it was the most brilliant students who got involved in politics. If I listed the names of those who died [in the political struggle] you will be shocked.”

This is a true statement. Many brilliant, idealistic and patriotic young people died at the hands of the military junta in the 1970s. Other organizations used the young people as cannon fodder to advance their own political ambitions. I knew a few of them. History will remember them one day as the best and brightest of their generation.

Andargachew: “[Young people these days] if they get their degree and a little opportunity, they will go abroad to live. They will get a job and continue with their lives. They don’t even think like they want to stay and survive in the country. They don’t think that way…”

That is an undeniable truth. Let’s be honest. What young person in Ethiopia would not want to go to a place where s/he can be free to pursue his/her dreams? Is there a young person alive in Ethiopia who would choose to live under the rule of a bunch of ignorant and corrupt bush thugs?

Andargachew: “[Ginbot 7] has looked at the youth in many ways. Young people believe in peaceful politics and they don’t believe in dying as in the old era of the EPRP. That’s long gone… Young people say, ‘We will express ourselves, go out and protest. Nothing will happen to us. This is a different era.’

This “answer” in segment 1 of the video is so badly cut and spliced that it is hard to understand the young people to which  Andargachew is referring. If I understand the “answer” correctly, it is true that young Ethiopians want peaceful change. They want change in barrels of love and knowledge, in barrels of ignorance or out of the muzzle of AK-47s. I do not know of a single young Ethiopian who would knowingly and intelligently choose war over peace, strife over harmony and enmity over amity.

Andargachew: “Ginbot 7 has serious problems. There were problems we did not see that we were forced to see… We have not been able to do what we consider to be core activities…”

It seems like a credible statement to me. I have no personal knowledge of the internal functions and processes of Ginbot 7, but it seems from Andargachew’s “answer” reflects the same problems every other Ethiopian opposition group is having today. Ho-hum!

Andargachew: “I have a question on how Ethiopian opposition groups can function in politics.  When the opposition does not know with transparency what the state is doing, I don’t know how they can prepare to work or come up with a manifesto or make election promises. The onus on transparency is on the state.  That is my belief. First, the opposition is fractured. Second, they should get together to accept this this big responsibility and work together…. There are certain highly individualistic values… One of the greatest problems is for groups to get together and work for a common purpose… I have never seen them write an economic policy. What is their economic policy?… I don’t believe in the idea that a thousand people could get together and make a political party… or five people form a party to struggle for power… Some of the opposition groups have 20 people when they have a meeting, the EPRP, Shengo, etc. They become 23 or 24 when our people are added to them… They are splintered and without unity of purpose… ”

This “answer” in segment 3 of the video is so badly cut and spliced, it is hard to understand exactly what Andargachew is saying about the nature of opposition politics. However, it is undeniable that the Ethiopian opposition is fractured, fragmented and unable to come together and present a unified front to the T-TPLF. It is self-evident that Ethiopian opposition groups are without their own clear and articulated programs or manifesto to deal with the country’s problems. I have been complaining about this very issue for years. Nearly five years ago, I proposed the establishment of a think tank to help opposition groups develop a unified political agenda and programs. (See my Huffington Post commentary, “Speaking Truth to the Truth Seekers”.) I have not had a single taker on my proposal!

Andargachew’s very last answer on the video: “There are a number of things that I have appreciated [abput my incarceration]. When I came, I had my T-Shirt and the pants I was wearing. In terms of food, I am in a situation where [my jailors] have been instructed to provide me any kind of food that I choose [avoiding sugary foods]. After I came here, I have become very healthy. I am in a perfectly comfortable situation where I experience no discomfort whatsoever. I walk and move around and I have lost all of the fat and become slim and trim.

I cannot judge the cuisine of extended stay “Burj Al Meles Zenawi” hotel. But there is something fishy about the lovey- dovey care Andargachew is getting at the Meles Zenawi Prison. We have been told by the T-TPLF that Andargachew is  the most “dangerous terrorist” ever. That is why he was given two death sentences, one in 2009 and another in 2012. In fact, he is so dangerous that he is the only person for whom the T-TPLF went to extreme lengths to make special  arrangements  for his extraordinary rendition.  Following his abduction in Yemen in July 2014, the T-TPLF described Andargachew in language befitting Osama bin Laden?

Why would the T-TPLF give the “Osama bin Laden of Ethiopia” the royal treatment???

If Andargachew is getting such royal treatment, how come he does not flick a single smile in the entire 10-minute and 31 second video?

I have seen the Andargachew movie (video) before

I have seen the T-TPLF do many ignorant, ill-advised, short-sighted, ludicrous, foolish and plain dumb stuff over the years. I watched in amazement when the T-TPLF put on national television a video recording demonizing  peaceful Muslim protestors as “terrorists”. In two pitiful and amateurish video “documentaries”, the T-TPLF tried to paint Ethiopian Muslims as fundamentalist fanatics. In two commentaries (Ethiopia: Land of Blood or Land of Corruption?” December 2011 and “Ethiopia: The Politics of Fear and Smear” February 2013), I fully defended the rights of Ethiopian Muslims to be free from official interference, manipulation and regulation.

I saw the T-TPLF trying to tear Emperor Menelik II to pieces just to build up the late Meles Zenawi. I demonstrated in my commentary “Demonizing Ethiopian History” that when it comes to gravitas (seriousness and solemnity), pietas (duty, loyalty),  dignitas (dignity and charisma) and virtus (valor, character, courage), Meles had nothin’ on Menelik. Meles and his crew are literally in the bush leagues (third-rate, small-time) compared to Menelik. I don’t need to prove Menelik was in the Big League.  See the New York Times report of November 7, 1909.

I have also seen the T-TPLF doing all kinds of silly, childish and mindless stuff over the years to humiliate Ethiopian opposition leaders, human rights activists and others. A few years ago, they secretly recorded the great Ethiopian stage and screen actor Debebe Eshetu in detention in exactly the same way as Andargachew and released the video. The public was invited to render a “judgment of conscience” on Artist Debebe.  I rendered judgment after viewing that trashy video. My judgment is that I have the greatest admiration and respect for Artist Debebe not only for his unrivaled thespian skills but also as a human rights advocate. I know Debebe Eshetu is a dedicated human rights defender.

The T-TPLF pulled the same exact stunt with Abubaker Ahmed, the Ethiopian Muslim human rights advocate, and others.

There is nothing new in what the T-TPLF is doing to Andargachew. It is the same old crap on a different day and with a different victim! It must be hell to have no imagination!

I am dumbfounded by T-TPLF’s invitation to have Ethiopians judge Andargachew ONLY by listening to his “answers” in a stitched videos recorded over an undetermined period of time and unspecified location. What were they thinking? (That is a dumb question. They don’t!)  Who authorized the release of such a trashy piece of video? (Another dumb question.) Suffice it to say that the T-TPLF’s contempt for our intelligence is surpassed only by our total contempt for their ignorance, idiocy and stupidity. They want us to judge a man ONLY by his answers! Such is life on Planet Thugistan!

“Judging ” Andargachew by his “answers” but not his words

Andargachew’s interrogators tried to conceal the identity of his interrogators, the place and times of his interrogation and released a distorted and manipulated video recording of his “answers” to humiliate him with maximum theatrical effect. But there were “answers” within the “answers” he gave to his interrogators that told a very different story.

Expert forensic video analysis reveals quite a bit. Scanning Andargachew’s gestures in clusters, examining his body movement and position in the video segments reveals much useful information. Suffice it to say that there are many “inconsistencies” in the video “answers” released by the T-TPLF.  The T-TPLF video shows Andargachew fiddling with his fingers, making uncharacteristic wild gestures, flailing his hands in the air and his head bobbing and weaving, among other things. Scanning Andargachew’s gestures in clusters and comparing them to other known exemplars of previous video recording of his interviews and public speeches, it is clear that his entire presentation on the T-TPLF is demonstrably unnatural for him.

Examination of his body positioning, movement and posture in the various segments of the T-TPLF video reveal distinct signs that he was under extreme stress and undergoing anxiety when he gave his “answers”. Specific “answers” registered high for stress. His facial expressions (and lack thereof) vary dramatically from apparent stress emanating at  least partially from facing his interrogator(s) who likely were looking at him intently possibly evincing a demeanor of contempt or hostility. He makes a number of exaggerated postures and movements in his sitting position at the table (including stiffness and immobility) that are unnatural to him suggesting a high degree of physical and psychological discomfort.

Voice stress analysis of his “answers” suggest he was not making the statements voluntarily and that the content of his “answers” are highly dubious at best. It also suggests that his “answers” are not spontaneous but likely prepared in advance and possibly coached. His statements that he is getting the royal treatment at the “Burj Al Meles Zenawi” hotel is not only incredible but seems coached, unnecessarily over-the-top and ludicrously melodramatic.

The tone and pitch of his voice and inflection of certain words and phrases indicated stress which diminished with statements that appeared to please the interrogators.  There are also distinct patterns showing his “answers” lagging behind his physical gestures suggesting discernable incongruity of speech and body movement.

It is possible to infer from the patched video as a whole that Andargachew’s “answers” show that he was subjected to a stressful situation. His responses to specific answers suggest anxiety, uncertainty, hesitancy, fear, anger and even boredom.

Is it possible that Andargachew is acting or play-acting in the T-TPLF video. Is he “answering” to sound believable without believing in the “answers”? I know the answer to these questions, but I will let my readers render their own “judgment of conscience”.

I am hopeful that the T-TPLF will include some of the foregoing elementary principles of “Video Forensic 101” in their next production of a video of questionless answers for the public’s “judgment of conscience”.

Is Andargachew a victim of Stockholm Syndrome?

Expert forensic video analysis also suggests that Andargachew may have been a victim of the so-called Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological phenomenon which occurs when a captive or hostage identifies with his captor. Such a victim often expresses empathy and sympathy to his/her captor and manifest certain positive and warm feelings toward their captors to the point of defending them. The victims equate lack of abuse and simple gestures as acts of kindness and decency. The very last “answer” Andargachew gives in the video strongly suggests that he may be undergoing a phase in the Stockholm Syndrome.

Let the media circus continue…

Let the media circus continue on the three-ring stages of the Ringling T-TPLF Brothers. Put on Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu and Woubshet Taye on Ring 1. Andualem Aragie on Ring 2. Bekele Gerba, Abubaker Ahmed on Ring 3.

I have rendered my “judgment of conscience” in the Inquisition of Andargachew Tsigie. I ask all my readers to do the same. Before rendering a verdict, I ask my readers to answer one question: Are you going to believe Andargachew’s tortured words or his tortured body language?

With special thanks to colleagues in the field of forensic video analysis for support in digital multimedia evidence processing. Muchas gracias a mis amigos!

Today marks 6 months since Ethiopian opposition leader was kidnapped at Yemen international airport

Amnesty International

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‘I appeal to the UK to not forget Andy and to make every effort to ensure his safety’ – partner of Andargachew Tsege

Amnesty International today urged the British government to step up efforts to ensure the safety of Andargachew Tsege, a British national held in secret detention nearly six months on since he was rendered to Ethiopia.

Mr Tsege, a British national of Ethiopian origin who is Secretary General of the outlawed Ethiopian opposition group Ginbot 7, disappeared at Sana’a airport in Yemen on 23 June while he was travelling to Eritrea. He had previously been tried in absentia in Ethiopia and sentenced to death for involvement in an alleged coup attempt.

Six months later he is still in secret detention and the Ethiopian government refuses to reveal his whereabouts – he has no access to lawyers or family members.

Amnesty is extremely concerned that Tsege – who is a father of three living in London – is at risk of torture, as political detainees in Ethiopia are frequently tortured in order to extract information and “confessions”. Since his apprehension in June, the UK has been granted just one consular visit on 11 August, during which Tsege was brought hooded to a meeting with the British Ambassador and was not permitted to speak to him privately.

Andargachew Tsege’s partner Yemsrach Hailemariam spoke of her anguish at not having more assurance of his safety. Ms Hailemariam said:

“It’s agony not to be able to visit Andy or find out how he’s doing. It’s nearly six months since Andy was detained. We’re outraged that the UK government has only been able to get one consular visit in that time. Given the close relations between Ethiopia and the UK I would have expected much more. I appeal to the UK to not forget Andy and to make every effort to ensure his safety.”

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“The British government must do more for Andargachew Tsege.
“He’s a British national and the government is obliged to make every effort to ensure that he is not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, and that he is granted access to his family and a lawyer.

“The British government have long remained tight-lipped about the disastrous state of human rights in Ethiopia and it’s time they spoke out.”

Repression in Ethiopia
Arbitrary detention like Tsege’s is widespread in Ethiopia and torture is rampant in Ethiopia’s detention centres. Dissent is not tolerated, and opposition parties, protesters, students and countless others are subjected to harassment, arrest and enforced disappearance from the security services.

In October, Amnesty published a report highlighting that thousands of people from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group have been arrested in recent years because of their actual or suspected opposition to the government. These have been detained without charge, tortured, and in some cases killed. As Ethiopia prepares for general elections next May, Amnesty fears the Ethiopian authorities will increase both the scale and the brutality of its efforts to suppress dissent.

Kate Allen added:

“In the wake of the 2005 elections, nearly 200 people were gunned down in the streets of the capital while protesting against the election results. The 2010 elections took place in a context of intimidation, harassment and major restrictions on political freedoms. Since then the government has continued to take all possible measures to suppress opposition and dissent in the country. Meanwhile criticism from Ethiopia’s donors has been conspicuously absent. The international community should be urging the Ethiopian authorities to take immediate and crucial steps to remove their stranglehold on political space in the country ahead of May’s vote.”

Ginbot 7
Ginbot 7 is one of five organisations proscribed as terrorist organisations by the Ethiopian parliament in 2011. In 2012, Andargachew Tsege was prosecuted in absentia on terrorism charges (alongside journalist and prisoner of conscience Eskinder Nega, and others) and sentenced to life imprisonment. Previously, in 2009, he was convicted in absentia on charges related to an aborted coup attempt and was sentenced to death. He was also tried in absentia in the 2005-2007 trial of political opposition members, journalists, activists and others.