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Freed political prisoner says thank you to school

Andy Tsege tells campaigning pupils: ‘I didn’t know you were doing all these things’

29 June, 2018 — By Helen Chapman

Andy Tsege speaking to pupils at Hugh Myddelton Primary School

A POLITICAL prisoner released from jail in Ethiopia after four years visited a primary school on Friday, thanking children and staff for joining his campaign for freedom.

Andargachew “Andy” Tsege and his family, who live in Holloway, spoke at the Hugh Myddelton Primary School assembly about his recent return to England. Two of his three children, Yilak and Menabe, both 11, are in their last year at the school.

Youngsters at the school had added to calls for his return home by singing songs outside the Foreign Office and writing letters to the prime minister.

Mr Tsege, who had been supporting pro-democracy campaigns, said to the assembly: “When I was in prison I didn’t know you were doing all these things. So the only thing I can say to you is thank you very much. Thank you.”

Menabe said: “We campaigned to get him back and now he’s back, it doesn’t feel real.”

The school sang Labi Siffre’s Something Inside So Strong, a song inspired by the campaign against South African Apartheid, bringing tears to the audience, teachers and family.

Mr Tsege was abducted in Yemen’s main airport and extradited to Ethiopia in 2014

Mr Tsege’s wife, Yemi Hailemariam, told the Tribune: “The school’s music teacher is amazing and that song is hugely powerful. The school and its parents have been amazing and the support has been huge. Whatever ideas we came back with, they were happy to take part and happy to be part of the campaign. The school is very conscientious of that kind of thing [activism], so that really helps.”

She added: “The empathy we got from people is what kept me going. The school supported us with what was a political dimension, but it is our children’s dad. Their dad went missing. This horrible thing happened and that’s what it is.”

Mr Tsege was separated from his partner and three children, who live in St John Street, after being abducted in Yemen’s main airport and extradited to Ethiopia in 2014.

The 63-year-old was on his way to Eritrea to meet fellow activists when he was kidnapped and held under a sentence of death in relation to his political opposition to the Ethiopian government.

He was released earlier this month after a new prime minister came into power in April and he returned to London.

Mr Tsege said: “[They treated me] very unfairly. The conditions were terrible. I was kept on my own, isolated… I didn’t have the same rights as others had in the prison.”

The school’s headteacher, Nathalie Parker, said: “Today is the first time I have met Andy after these years of campaigning to get him back and it’s amazing… just truly inspirational.”


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