Opinion: Honour Andy by writing to your MP

Andy Tsege, Yemi Hailemariam and children, Helawit, Menabe and Yilak.

Andy Tsege, Yemi Hailemariam and children, Helawit, Menabe and Yilak. - Credit: Archant

In the last general election, Yemi Hailemariam ran for parliament against Theresa May. She ran to shine a light on the wrongful imprisonment of her partner and father of her three children, Andargachew Tsege.

Human rights campaigner Daren Nair.

Human rights campaigner Daren Nair. - Credit: Daren Nair

Speaking to the people of Maidenhead while wearing a "Free Andy Tsege" T-shirt, she had just one message, "Don't vote for me, write to Theresa May."

Believing in the need for a free and democratic Ethiopia, Islington man Andy spoke against the Ethiopian regime's human rights abuses in front of the EU's Committee on Human Rights and the US Congress.

Originally from Ethiopia, Tsege fled to London after his brother was murdered by government security forces and he received threats from the regime for his beliefs. He won political asylum in 1979 and started a family.

On June 23, 2014, he was kidnapped by the Ethiopian authorities from an airport in Yemen, having been sentenced to death in absentia in 2009. He was held on death row.

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The UN Human Rights Council and European Parliament both called for his release. Hailemariam met UK Foreign Office staff including two foreign secretaries requesting that they publicly call for Tsege's immediate release - they did not.

Realising she couldn't count on the UK government, Hailemariam started the Free Andy Tsege campaign. She engaged politicians, did interviews in the media, organised vigils and started petitions.

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Our society operates on the fundamental belief we take care of each other. "I would like to see consular protection be legal protection rather than discretionary which means all UK nationals will be guaranteed help from the UK government when they get into trouble abroad," said Hailemariam. We have the power to effect change by writing to our MPs urging our government to make this happen.

In April 2018, change came to Ethiopia. A new prime minister was sworn in and many positive human rights reforms took place. A peace agreement was signed with neighbouring Eritrea and thousands of political prisoners were released.

A year ago today (May 29), Tsege was released. He returned home to the UK and in September 2018, Tsege and Hailemariam married.

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