The father of three and lifelong crusader for democracy has been in secret detention for more than a year
Politicians from the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union have sent a letter to Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn urging the release of British citizen Andargachew “Andy” Tsige, a political activist who has been held incommunicado for more than a year and has been sentenced to death.
The father of three was on his way to Eritrea to attend an opposition conference on June 23, 2014 when he was detained in Sana’a, Yemen, during a layover, at the behest of the Ethiopian government.
Andy Tsige, 60, a former secretary-general of a banned opposition party, had already been sentenced to death in absentia by an Ethiopian court in 2009.
The letter, obtained only by Al Jazeera, criticizes the Ethiopian authorities for conducting a “deeply flawed” trial and demands the release of Tsige, who is kept in solitary confinement and subjected to artificial light 24 hours a day.
“You have emphasized in the past Ethiopia’s commitment to human rights, but it is unconscionable and illegal for your government to have targeted Mr. Tsige in this way. Your government’s treatment of him is a stain on its reputation, and threatens to isolate Ethiopia internationally,” said the letter, co-authored in June by California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Other politicians who signed off on the letter include British parliament members Jeremy Corbyn, Baron Dholakia, and Emily Thornberry along with European Parliament officials Ana Gomes and Richard Howitt.
British officials have only been permitted to see Tsige three times since his arrest in monitored visits that take place away from his jail cell, circumstances that lawyers say prevent him from speaking openly about his mistreatment.
The Independent reported that during one of those visits, in April, Tsige told Greg Dorey, the British ambassador to Ethiopia that he would prefer being executed to remaining in detention.
“Seriously, I am happy to go — it would be preferable and more humane,” Tsige reportedly said.
Yemi Hailemariam, Tsige’s partner and mother of his children, said the ordeal has left the family devastated.
“It’s dreadful, what has happened. The way he was taken, it’s really terrifying. I was hoping things would evolve quickly and he would be released, but it feels like it’s only getting worse and worse,” she told Al Jazeera America in an exclusive interview.