Andy Tsege finally gets access to a lawyer almost 1,000 days after being kidnapped by the Ethiopian authorities.
By Ian Woods, Senior News Correspondent
The family of a British man imprisoned in Ethiopia have been told they can visit him for the first time since he was illegally captured nearly three years ago.
On Monday Andy Tsege will have been held for 1,000 days.
He was seized while at an international airport in Yemen, and taken to Ethiopia where he’d already been tried and sentenced to death in his absence.
The Ethiopians regard him as a terrorist, but his family say he’s simply an outspoken critic of the government.
Mr Tsege was born in Ethiopia but sought political asylum in London and was granted British citizenship.
The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been under pressure to lobby the Ethiopian government for his release, and he raised the case with the country’s PM during a visit to Addis Ababa on Thursday.
Mr Johnson said: “He now has a lawyer and he’s been able to see that lawyer.
“We received undertakings that there would be regular access to that lawyer and an offer for Mr Tsege’s wife and family to come out and see him, so we certainly raised those issues and made progress.”
Mr Tsege’s wife, Yemi Hailemariam, told Sky News she hoped it was a genuine offer – as she was previously warned she would be arrested if she travelled to Ethiopia.
“Although I’m very happy that he is finally able to see a lawyer after two and a half years, the coincidence surprises me that the day before the Foreign Secretary arrives in Ethiopia he suddenly gets access to a lawyer.”
Maya Foa, from Reprieve, said Mr Johnson should have been trying to bring Mr Tsege home on his plane, but told Sky News: “I am hopeful that this visit will see a change in attitude from the Foreign Office, and that what we will see is an attempt to negotiate Andy’s release back to the UK.
“This is a man who has done nothing wrong.”
The news comes as the High Street retailer Lush stages a campaign in support of Mr Tsege.
Staff in all 102 UK stores have been briefed to discuss his case with customers and have been selling bath bombs embedded with his picture under the slogan Buy One Set One Free.
The company’s ethical director, Hilary Jones, said: “We’ve had queues at our iPads to sign up to the petition.
“We’ve had people really interested. if you tell Andy’s story it really affects people and they can see the total injustice.”