Andargachew Tsege settled in the UK after his political activism made it unsafe for him to remain in Ethiopia. After years making London his home, Andy became a British citizen and met his former partner Yemi. Andy and Yemi had children who they raised in London.
Andy wrote articles and a book sharply criticising Ethiopia’s totalitarian governments. He soon became a prominent spokesperson on human rights abuses in the country. He testified before the US Congress and the European Parliament.
As retribution, in 2009, the politicised courts in Ethiopia sentenced Andy to death in absentia (meaning the person being sentenced is out of the country) while he was living in London with his family. Andy was ‘tried’ alongside scores of other political prisoners, including his 82-year-old father.
In June 2014, Andy was travelling overseas and waiting for a connecting flight in Sanaa airport, in Yemen, when he was abducted by Ethiopian security forces. It would be another four years until Andy saw Yemi and his three children again.
Several weeks after Andy’s disappearance, Ethiopian officials admitted to British ministers that he was in their custody, at a secret prison. Andy was unable to contact his family or speak to the British embassy. Shortly after this, Ethiopian state TV published disturbing videos of Andy reportedly ‘confessing’. In the videos, Andy looked gaunt and exhausted – and screams could be heard in the background.
Days after Andy’s abduction, Yemi contacted Reprieve. For the next four years, Reprieve supported Yemi’s campaign to secure Andy’s release and return to the UK.
We campaigned relentlessly in the courts of law, in the media and on social media. We kept the spotlight on Andy at every turn as we built a cross-party coalition in Parliament which made sure his case was repeatedly raised and debated.
When the UK government refused to demand Andy’s release, we launched litigation to make sure that they did everything possible to help Andy. And we brought together more than 70,000 members of the Reprieve community to support him and campaign for his release.
And on 26 May 2018, we found out that the campaign had been successful – Andy was to be released. He returned home on 29 May. Alongside his jubilant family, we were there to greet him.