Girl, 9, sues the government over Holloway father being held on death row
THE nine-year-old daughter of a Holloway man who has been held on death row in Ethiopia for two years is suing the British government over its alleged failure to demand his release.
Lawyers for Menabe Andargachew, from Clerkenwell, have begun judicial review proceedings in the High Court against the Foreign Office over ministers’ handling of the case of her father, Andargachew “Andy” Tsege.
Mr Tsege, a 61-year-old British citizen, was kidnapped and rendered to Ethiopia by forces of that country in June 2014. He remains held there under a sentence of death imposed in absentia in 2009 in relation to his political opposition to the Ethiopian government.
“I’m pretty sure that every British person deserves the protection of the UK government but my father is not receiving this,” said Menabe, who attends Hugh Myddelton primary school and dreams of a career on Broadway.
“After two years he is finally going to get a lawyer but I don’t think it’s going to actually help my dad. The government needs to demand he comes back – they should have done it ages ago.”
The only contact Menabe, her twin brother Yilak and sister Helawit, 16, who live with their mother Yemi Hailemariam, have had with their father since he was abducted was a single phone call in December 2014.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who was in Ethiopia this week, said Mr Tsege was “top of the agenda” at meetings with the government. However, while “securing assurances” that the activist would finally be granted access to a lawyer he did not demand Mr Tsege’s release.
“We had been living in hope but this really feels like a slap in the face,” Ms Hailemariam said. “There’s no way someone who has been detained in this way and who was kidnapped is not going to have a fair trial. The problem is that these people don’t have fair trials.
“To think he can get justice there is an insult to us and the subtext, it feels, is that we are not fully British.”
Menabe added: “I think they would try harder if my father was a white Englishman, definitely.” The family’s case is that, given the illegality of Mr Tsege’s kidnap, detention and death sentence, the UK’s decision not to ask for Mr Tsege’s release is unlawful.
Ms Hailemariam added: “The government is trying to justify the unjustifiable and I think this is unsustainable, so we just have to keep on fighting.”
Speaking from Ethiopia after his meetings on Wednesday, Mr Hammond said: “I have now received a commitment from the Prime Minister that Mr Tsege will be allowed access to independent legal advice to allow him to discuss options under the Ethiopian legal system.
“At my request, a senior Foreign Office official travelling with me was given access to Mr Tsege in prison. Following that visit, I am satisfied he is not being ill-treated and that he is receiving regular visits from family members in Ethiopia.”
Mr Tsege, a naturalised British citizen who has lived in London since 1979, is an outspoken critic of the Ethiopian regime and a member of the exiled opposition group Ginbot 7.
The jazz fan was on his way to an opposition conference in Eritrea when he was kidnapped and handed over to Ethiopian authorities.
Last year, Menabe’s sister Helawit won a human rights award for a play she wrote with her friends about her father’s plight.
Menabe was chosen by her mother to head up the legal challenge because of her articulate campaigning on her father’s behalf. She is being represented by Clerkenwell-based law firm Leigh Day.