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Hero’s welcome for Andy Tsege, freed from death row

Campaigning partner ‘ecstatic’ following release of Ethiopian politician held for four years

01 June, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Andargachew ‘Andy’ Tsege was abducted in Yemen’s main airport in June 2014 and transferred to Ethiopia where he was imprisoned in Kaliti jail

A FREEDOM fighter illegally held on death row in Ethiopia for four years received a hero’s welcome in his family’s home town when he was released on Tuesday.

Andargachew “Andy” Tsege, 63, of Upper Holloway, was abducted in Yemen’s main airport in June 2014 and transferred to Ethiopia where he was imprisoned in Kaliti jail, a notorious state prison located just south of the capital Addis Ababa, commonly referred to as a gulag.

His family have only spoken to him once on the phone during this time and he has been unable to receive or write letters. The Tribune has written extensively about Mr Tsege’s bid for freedom for the last four years.

His partner Yemi Hailemariam, of St John Street, became an activist fighting to secure his release in recent years.

Yemi Hailemariam has been fighting to secure the release of Mr Tsege

She even ran against prime minster Theresa May in last year’s general election to attract attention to her partner’s illegal imprisonment.

She told the Tribune a day before Mr Tsege’s release: “I am ecstatic and, obviously, the anticipation to talk to him is killing me. I am so eager to speak to him and see him.”

Mr Tsege, a father-of-three and a British citizen, is a prominent pro-democracy politician in Ethiopia where he was born.

He was found guilty of “terrorism” and sentenced in absentia in 2009 while he was living in the UK. He was arrested during a stopover at Yemen airport as he went to visit fellow opposition politicians in Eritrea.

Crowds gathered outside his family home in Addis Ababa, on Tuesday where Mr Tsege was greeted as a hero by his fans upon his release.

Speaking to the Tribune last Friday before her partner was pardoned, Ms Hailemariam said: “I miss his sincerity. He is becoming like the distant past to me.

“He’s missed half of his children’s primary school years but I hope that he comes out of prison for the start of their secondary school. I want him to be there for their first day.”

She said she expected her partner would write a book about his time in prison upon his release.

Mr Tsege was pardoned by the newly elected prime minister Abiy Ahmed on Saturday alongside hundreds of other political prisoners.

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