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UK must ‘stand up’ for Ethiopia opposition leader extradited from Yemen, says Ginbot 7 group

media Andargachew Tsige, Secretary General, Ginbot 7 Photo:

Ethiopian opposition group Ginbot 7 have urged the UK government to do more to ensure the safety of an exiled Ethiopian opposition leader who was recently deported from Yemen to Ethiopia. British national Andargachew Tsige has been sentenced to death in absentia for planning to assassinate government officials - a charge he denies. He was arrested by Yemeni authorities last month while in transit to Eritrea. The British foreign office has said it is continuing to look into the case. RFI spoke to Ephrem Madebo, spokesperson for Ginbot 7, based in the US.

Do you know where he is?

The last information that we have is that the foreign office in the UK, referring to the Yemeni ambassador to the UK, informed Tsige’s family that Tsige has been extradited to Ethiopia. That is the information we have now.

Why was he originally actually travelling to Asmara in Eritrea?

Mr Andargachew is a long-standing human rights and freedom activist in Ethiopia. He was in Ethiopia in 2005, but basically he didn’t agree with the current regime in Ethiopia so they were looking for him, they arrested him, they tortured him, so he left Ethiopia and he continued his long-standing human rights advocacy work here in the diaspora. He organised Ethiopians throughout the world to fight or struggle against the regime in Ethiopia. We believe that his arrest was done basically with the agreement of the two regimes, the Ethiopian regime and the Yemen regime. I think they agreed secretly to have him arrested in Yemen and then have him extradited to Ethiopia. The reason is purely political. Mr Andargachew is not a criminal person, he is a civilian, he is a human rights activist. And the Ethiopian regime does not like human rights activists. So basically they wanted him back to Ethiopia - he’s a person that carries the death penalty - so they wanted him and then the Yemeni government agreed with the Ethiopian regime and they arrested him and extradited him.

Are the British foreign office doing enough in your opinion?

Absolutely not, they were informed about his arrest in Yemen in less than 24 hours. We informed them, the family informed them. Basically they called the Yemeni ambassador to the UK and talked to them, probably 10 days after they heard of the arrest of Mr Andargachew. Within the first 10 days I don’t really know what they did and what they were doing. All in all, I don’t think the UK government did enough for a citizen who carries the death penalty. They basically looked that he was arrested and looked that he was extradited to Ethiopia. They started moving here and there after the extradition became official.

What else, in your opinion, should the British authorities be doing?

They should have done what they do, I have seen the British authorities fighting for their citizens wherever they are arrested. Including when they are arrested here in the United States. They fight for them, they stand for them, they have done this through the years. But in the case of Andargachew Tsige they did not do the same thing. I don’t think the British government has a double standard for citizens. A citizen is a citizen regardless of racial origin or ethnic origin or religious origin, whatever origin. A citizen is a citizen, they should have done the same thing that they did historically for their citizens. I don’t think they did the same thing.

Will the Ethiopian authorities carry out the death sentence against him?

That is exactly what we fear, it is our belief. He escaped this in 2005. Now they caught him. Basically even if he wasn’t carrying a death penalty, the Ethiopian regime kills people at will. They kill anytime a person that disagrees with them and whenever you dissent politically from them they either kill you or force you to leave the country or give you a life sentence. That’s what they do and that’s our fear.

What effect will this have on Ginbot 7? The Ethiopian authorities are removing the leader of your group.

The removal of Mr Andargachew Tsige has already cemented the group. It has already created a national and international movement against the regime. I don’t think the arrest and eventually maybe killing of Mr Andargachew Tsige will have a serious consequence on the organisation, it drives the organisation to do more. It gives us energy to follow in his footsteps and then finish what he started.

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