Ethiopia: Andargachew is touring, authoring. Western MPs: ‘release him without delay’

Ethiopian Foreign Minister claimed Andargachew Tsige is being held with unusual kindness. A group of American and European legislators, however, petitioned for an immediate end of “his ordeal”.

Andargachew Tsige, secretary general of Patriotic Ginbot-7, is in Ethiopian prisons after his capture at Yemeni capital on July 23, 2014. The British citizen was in transit from Dubai to Eritrea, where the group’s armed unit is stationed. Ethiopia confirmed having the man in custody two weeks later. He has been the subject diplomatic exchanges since. (See here, here, here]

A joint letter, signed by five parliamentarians from US, UK and EU, obtained by HornAffairs, decried that Andargachew “has been held incommunicado without trial”.

The letter criticized that “British officials have been permitted to see [him] just three times”, “[his family] in Britain have only been able to speak to him once” and “[the state TV] has paraded Mr Tsege on television several times”.

The letter, addressed to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalgne and obtained by HornAffairs, warned:

“…it is unconscionable and illegal for your government to have targeted Mr Tsege in this way. Your government’s treatment of him is a stain on its reputation, and threatens to isolate Ethiopia internationally” .

After expressing “serious concerns that he is being mistreated in detention”, the MPs said: “[we] hold the Ethiopian government fully responsible for any harm done to him”.

Also demanded that “Andargachew Tsege’s ordeal has gone on long enough; we call on you to release him without delay  and facilitate his  return home to his family”. 

Andargachew touring, authoring

Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom (PhD), however, presented a different version of the matter in a recent interview with the Voice of America Amharic service.

In a rare public comment on the case, without any reference to the MPs’ letter, Tedros Adhanom said

“Let me disclose, for the first time to media, what is being done with regard to Andargachew Tsige.

First: As per his wish to see the city, he has been taken for tour. He has been taken to Adama city to see the development there. And he himself was surprised.

Second: Where in the world is a prisoner provided laptop? But Andargachew was provided with a laptop and he has been writing a book which he now almost completed”.

The statement is the first official confirmation of a report by Benyam Kebede of EthiopiaFirst last May that Andargachew has been taken for city tour. Benyam also claimed that Andargachew himselfPhoto - Andargachew Tsige chose to stop phone calls to his family so as not to emotionally stress them.

Tedros didn’t give details when asked about Andargachew’s access to visitors. He categorically said, “[visitation] is possible. He can be visited since he is transferred to a regular prison. He was being interrogated so far”.

When asked on the possibility of retrial, Tedros noted that Andargachew had been convicted and sentenced in absentia.

Adding that, “I am not a lawyer but I am told by professionals that since he forsaken the opportunity to defend himself at the time, he will have now to serve the sentence. However, he may apply for Presidential pardon.”

Political reformer

Andargachew’s capture and transfer from Yemen to Ethiopia was referred to as “abduction” in the joint letter signed by Dana Rohrabacher (US Congress), Baron Dholakia OBE (UK House of Lords), Jeremy Corbyn (UK House of Commons) , Ana Gomes (European Parliament) and Richard Howitt (European Parliament).

They claimed further that:

“Mr Tsege has long called for political reform in Ethiopia . He now faces a death sentence handed down after a deeply flawed in absentia trial. This is despite the fact that even your own officials admit his group is “no threat” to your country.”

Addis Ababa, however, claims Andargachew was extradited as per the cooperation agreement signed with Yemen.

Though some criticize the 2009 trial that sentenced Andargachew, it is not disputed that he has been building an armed unit in Eritrea at the time of his capture.

Andargachew’s group has been renamed Patriotic Ginbot 7 last January after its merger with another group. Yet, the group maintained Andargachew’s post as its secretary-general.


Read more in the Andargachew Tsige saga archive


Daniel Berhane