The daughter of a British man on death row in Ethiopia has written to the Queen to ask for her help in setting him free.
Andy Tsege, a father of three from north London, was snatched by Ethiopian security forces at an airport in Yemen in June 2014. At the time he was waiting for a flight to Eritrea, but he was taken to Ethiopia having been sentenced to death in his absence for allegedly plotting a coup, which he denies.
According to campaigners, the real reason he faces execution is that he fell out with former prime minister Meles Zenawi after exposing corruption.
In October, BuzzFeed News revealed that Tsege, 59, had asked the British ambassador to Ethiopia to "bury me in England" during a meeting.
The letter, sent by his 8-year-old daughter Menabe and seen by BuzzFeed News, reads:
Dear Queen Elizabeth,
My name is Menabe Andargachew I am 8 and attend [redacted name of school]. My father is currently held captive in Ethopia the situation occurred 1 and a third years ago. I am writing to ask your assistance in these troubled times to bring my father back would be asking toomuch. I just wish you could help change the government's actions towards the situation. Last year the year sixes in my school and my brother, sister and I wrote letters to David Cameron. His reply wasn't very convincing because at the very least I haven't heard any news and at the most I don't see any father's in the house so I have decided to write to you instead in hope you will help. With David Cameron in charge again the situation will not be solved which is why you need to get him to actually pay attention to the problem. My sister won the Liberty human rights award but David Cameron still didn't do anything.
From Menabe Andargachew
BuzzFeed News has also seen notes by the outgoing ambassador to Ethiopia, Greg Dorey, following a meeting with Tsege on 18 November, which appear to confirm that Tsege is currently in legal limbo.
Dorey writes: "He had not had access to a lawyer and nothing had been said to him about charges, courts or rights – I mentioned that it had been reported in the media that when a local court had asked for him to be produced the prison authority had denied having custody of him. He said that 'nobody talks to you or answers the questions you raise'".
Dorey's notes also mention that he delivered a note from Tsege's wife, which he says made Tsege a "little emotional". BuzzFeed News has been shown this letter, which reads:
Hello Gacho [Her nickname for Tsege],
I miss you so much but I keep thinking and deep down inside I know this is a very temporary situation.
There is not a day that goes by that the kids and I [don't] somehow remember Papa! And there is not an hour that goes by I am not thinking how to bring this horrible nightmare to an end.
But Gacho you need to stay strong. Please stay strong. We love you and you matter to us. The kids want their Papa back. I want my Gacho back. Remember we need to get old so you can tell me 'I told you so.'
This is not the end. Just dig very deep and we will do the rest.
Big hug and kisses from me and the kids.
In October BuzzFeed News revealed the deep divide at the heart of the British government over Tsege's case.
The foreign secretary, Phillip Hammond, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that he had been lobbying the Ethiopian government, making it clear that Tsege's treatment was "unacceptable", but at around the same time, at the UK Ethiopia Trade Investment Forum, an event supported by the Foreign Office and the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills, then-Foreign Office minister Grant Shapps delivered a keynote address in which he said the countries would stand "shoulder to shoulder".
A Foreign Office spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: "The Foreign Secretary has raised Mr Tsege's case with the Ethiopian Government on 19 separate occasions, making it clear the way he has been treated is unacceptable. We welcome the improvement in access to Mr Tsege, following the British Government's intervention, but it must be more regular and it must include access to a lawyer."
The spokesperson continued: "Mr Tsege has still not been given an ability to challenge his detention through a legal process and so the Foreign Secretary has written formally to the Ethiopians requesting that they set out a timetable for the legal process. We will continue to provide consular support to Mr Tsege and his family."
Dorey's notes stated that while Tsege had not suffered any "obvious physical deterioration", he had possibly suffered a dislocated thumb, and Dorey had attempted to "dissuade him from self-harm".
There have been question marks over Tsege's imprisonment since February, when the Mail On Sunday acquired correspondence between Foreign Office officials that called into question the evidence that had led to his arrest. One wrote: "All we have seen are a few pictures of him standing in an Eritrean village – hardly proof that he was engaged in terrorist training."
The newspaper also revealed that diplomats at the government department were becoming frustrated by the inaction of their ministers. The paper reported: "In one email, an exasperated official asks: 'Don't we need to do more than give them a stern talking to?'"
Maya Foa, director of Reprieve's death penalty team, said: "Andy Tsege is a British citizen and father who has been subjected to a series of terrible abuses at the hands of the Ethiopian regime – kidnap, rendition, torture, incommunicado detention, and an in absentia death sentence – as punishment for his political beliefs. Yet despite these serious human rights violations against one of its nationals, the British government has failed to request Andy's release from unlawful detention. Instead, his family must now prepare for a second Christmas without him. The British government must not let Andy's children suffer without their father any longer – ministers must demand his release without delay."
Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Alan White at email@example.com.
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