Andy Tsege and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Campaigns for jailed UK nationals converge as Andy signs book metres from Richard Ratcliffe’s hunger strike
- Credit: Archant
Just over a year after he was released from death row in Ethiopia, Andargachew “Andy” Tsege launched a book detailing his experience as a political prisoner at the country’s embassy in Knightsbridge this week.
Andy, a British citizen from Upper Holloway, was held for four years in the east African country until a change of government saw him pardoned and released last May.
Poignantly, the signing was just metres away from where Richard Ratcliffe has been continuing a hunger strike to call for the release of wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is also on hunger strike in prison in Iran.
Richard had often campaigned with Andy's wife Yemi Hailemariam to highlight the imprisonment of British nationals abroad and help get their respective partners released from jail.
On Tuesday, Islington South MP and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry visited Richard's makeshift campsite. She explained both her support for the West Hampstead man and wife Nazanin - whose case mirrors Andy's - and how it was a "dark irony" that the Iranian and Ethiopian embassies were next to each other.
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She said: "I have supported them for a very long time. With Richard, we were talking about the fact that 18 months ago we were outside Downing Street with Yemi [Hailemariam], and she and Andy were here at the weekend in the Ethiopian Embassy.
"That's really powerful."
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In a daily video diary Richard Ratcliffe has been releasing during his hunger strike, which has stretched into a second week, he said that when asked by a parade of MPs - including Andy's own MP and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn - what they could do, he had been discussing the lack of protection given to people like Andy, Nazanin and many others imprisoned abroad.
Referencing the cases of Andy and jailed Scotsman Jagtar Singh Johal who is being held in India, he said: "I don't think the government does a good enough job protecting British citizens abroad.
"There are a number of families who I work with who have been struggling for their loved ones in prison in India and Ethiopia. It's important that there are rights and that the government has your back."
Amnesty UK activist Daren Nair, who has spent the last 12 days supporting the Ratcliffe family and Richard throughout his strike, also visited Andy's book signing.
He told the Gazette: "It was great to see Andy and Yemi reunited and happy.
"Like Richard Ratcliffe, Yemi's campaigning to free Andy was phenomenal. She wouldn't have had to go to such great lengths though if our government did more to protect the rights of British citizens overseas."