Tag Archives: Andargachew

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!

A BRITISH MAN IS ON DEATH ROW IN ETHIOPIA

Andy Tsige (right) with Yemi Hailemariam and their children

Andargachew Tsige, known to his friends and family as Andy, is a British citizen from Ethiopia. He came to England as a political refugee in 1979. Now he’s back in Ethiopia, locked up and possibly enduring torture for being a political dissident, and the UK stands accused of not doing enough to help.

Tsige is the secretary general of Ginbot 7, an opposition group banned by the Ethiopian government. In 2009, he was sentenced to death at a trial held in Ethiopia in his absence for supposedly planning a coup. Then, in June this year, he was seized in Yemen, which has a security arrangement with Ethiopia. For two weeks, it seemed as though he had disappeared off the face of the Earth. Then, he emerged on Ethiopian state TV broadcasts, where it was revealed that he was being held in a secret detention facility. While he’s unlikely to face a rarely imposed death sentence, he is currently on death row.

In the first video released, he appears for a short time and looks fairly healthy. But in the second, screaming can be heard in the background (just after the one-minute mark), and Tsige, looking thin and exhausted, is presented as if he is making a confession. A narrator says, in a haltingly edited piece of propaganda, that Tsige has been working with neighboring Eritrea—which has a longstanding feud with Ethiopia—that he has been disrupting the “peace and economic growth of Ethiopia,” and that he has been “training various people and sending ammunition through Eritrean borders.” His lawyers are concerned that evidence obtained through torture will be used to justify the sentence imposed on him.

Since his arrest, a UK Foreign Office (FCO) spokesperson told me, Tsige has only seen the British ambassador to Ethiopia once. That was back in August. “We are deeply concerned about his welfare,” the spokesperson said. “We want consular access and are pressing for further access to him.” David Cameron has written to Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn “to request regular consular access and his assurance that the death penalty will not be imposed.”

Despite this diplomatic action, a British citizen is languishing on death row based on evidence that could have been gained through torture, and there has been no public condemnation of Ethiopia’s actions. His advocates say it’s not good enough. Human rights charity Reprieve has initiated legal proceedings against the Foreign Office (FCO) for its failure to treat Tsige’s abduction as a serious breach of international law.

 

Andy Tsige is raising three children with Yemi Hailemariam, his girlfriend of ten years. All three children have written to Cameron to ask what he is doing to get their father out of prison. Cameron, though, will be treading carefully. Strategically located in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is a key ally to the West in the war on terror and has a close relationship with Britain. It is one of the main actors in the fight against Al Shabaab in Somalia. Ethiopia’s use of its anti-terrorism legislation to crack down on dissent of any kind is troubling. According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, Ethiopia has become a surveillance state. Press freedom is deteriorating, particularly in the run-up to elections next May.

When I put this to a source in Ethiopia’s ministry of foreign affairs, he insisted that grounds for concern over terrorism in the region were legitimate. “I don’t think it is so much Ethiopia using its strategic importance to do what it wants. The government does genuinely feel it is in the frontline against terrorism—and in terms of terrorist activity it has some cause—Al-Shabaab is in Somalia and trying to make moves into Ethiopia as well as Kenya, Uganda, and so on.”

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn with US Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Ethiopia considers Ginbot 7 a terrorist group, and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn claimsthat “Andargachew Tsige is a Trojan horse for the Eritrean government to destabilize this country.” Eritrea is where the Ethiopian opposition groups meet, and any connection to Eritrea can be milked by the Ethiopian government. According to a recent report submitted to the UN’s Security Council by its Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, the Diplomatic missions and military officers of Eritrea are involved in the recruitment, training, and operational aspects of Ginbot 7.

But Ginbot 7 does not appear to be anything like Al-Shabaab. Its mission statement says that it is looking to establish a “national political system in which government power and political authority is assumed through peaceful and democratic process based on the free will and choice of citizens of the country.” Tsige’s family and lawyers insist that he is a peaceful man trying to stand up to an authoritarian regime.

My FCO spokesperson told me that more vocal lobbying is a “tool in our diplomatic arsenal,” to be used at the right moment. Old school diplomacy is still the order of the day, she said, and the British government’s public line may change depending on how the case goes. My Ethiopian foreign ministry source implies that this might be the right approach, citing the experience of Martin Schibbye and Johann Persson, two Swedish journalists who spent nearly a year in an Ethiopian prison on terror charges from 2011 to 2012. They “would have been released months earlier if the Swedish foreign ministry and Human Rights Watch hadn’t kept making loud public noises about ill treatment and human rights abuse,” he said.

Maybe that’s the cut and thrust of realpolitik, and the FCO is playing a savvy game. But a cynic might point out that there are grounds to believe that the British government’s approach is more about not showing up its ally than a desire to protect a British citizen.

Last year, internal documents from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) showed that millions of pounds of foreign aid money was set to fund the training of Ethiopian security forces in the Ogaden region, which has been accused of numerous human rights abuses and summary executions.

Then there’s a master’s program for Ethiopian security-sector officials, funded by DFID. A DFID document, still available online, reveals that places for Ethiopian officials on the “Executive Masters in Security Sector Management delivered to top and mid level military and civil servants in five cohorts” at Cranfield University, were set to be funded by the department up until 2017. The course has since been closed due to “concerns about risk and value for money.” I’m sure this is totally unrelated to any embarrassment that Tsige’s case might cause DFID. Despite the cancelation, the question remains: Can the British government be expected to stand up for Tsige while it is funding Ethiopia’s oppressive anti-terror operation?

Yemi Hailemariam, Andy’s long-term girlfriend, is worried that the father of her children will continue to suffer. “There needs to be clarity in the message the British government is sending to Ethiopia. They need to tell them, ‘This is our citizen. Please give him back,’” she said. Tsige’s lawyers, from the legal charity Reprieve, are just as concerned. Maya Foa, head of their death penalty team, said, “It beggars belief that the UK Government is not doing more to get him back.”

Tsige’s family are trying to hold themselves together. “I don’t feel at all confident about him coming back. I try not to think about it because when I do, I fall to pieces,” Yemi told me. Whatever happens, he “will be expected to ask for a pardon,” sources close to the case in Ethiopia tell me. If he does this, his death sentence will be replaced with a life sentence in prison, perhaps less. In a country that emphasizes security over human rights, and with the British intent on maintaining an important strategic and economic alliance, it may just be the best he can hope for.

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