January 16, 2015 (LONDON) – A delegation of British parliamentarians will be in Ethiopia next month in an attempt to secure the release of a British citizen who is facing the death penalty in Ethiopia.
Andargachew Tsege, a British national who was born in Ethiopia, was the secretary-general of exiled Ethiopian opposition movement Ginbot 7, labelled by the Ethiopian government as terrorist entity in 2011.
Tsege was sentenced to death in absentia in 2009 on charges of planning to assassinate government officials and thereby to stage a coup, an allegation he denies.
He was arrested by Yemeni authorities at Sana’a airport on 23 June while he was in transit to Eritrea and was subsequently extradited to Ethiopia under a security arrangement Yemen has with Ethiopia.
The Independent newspaper, reported that the delegation of British legislators will be headed by Jeremy Corbyn, vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights.
The UK government and prime minister David Cameron himself were criticised by Tsege’s family and right groups for not doing enough to secure his release.
“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,” said Corbyn on Thursday while announcing the planned visit.
He added Tsege’s constituent is “a British national in prison with no understandable, comprehensible or acceptable legal process that’s put him there”.
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 Tsege is going to be seen, as the years go by, as Ethiopia’s Nelson Mandela”
A spokesperson for the Ethiopian Embassy in London claimed that Mr Tsege belongs to a “terrorist organisation” seeking to “overthrow the legitimate government of Ethiopia.”
He is being “well treated” and “torture is inhumane and has no place in modern Ethiopia,” he added.
According to the Foreign Office, the British government is pressing authorities in Ethiopian not to carry out the death penalty.
Tsege, who recently appeared on the state-run Ethiopia Television, said he was working with neighbouring Eritrea, long standing Ethiopia’s foe, to destabilise the Horn of Africa nation.
He also confessed he has been recruiting and training people in Eritrea who will cross borders to carry out attacks in Ethiopian soil.
However, opposition sources cast doubts over the seriousness of such confessions, saying they were obtained using methods of torture.
Between 1998 and 2000, Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a two-year-long bloody border war in which over 70,000 people lost their lives.
The two neighbours regularly trade accusations of hosting and providing support to each other’s rebel groups