Extraordinary. Now Iran’s state TV is citing Boris Johnson’s remarks as “proof” of the case against detained UK mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: https://t.co/p4ZC0ymOvC
— Ashley Cowburn (@ashcowburn) November 8, 2017
The spotlight is currently glaring down on UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson after his ill-judged remarks may have handed an Iranian-born British citizen an extended prison sentence. However, he still needs to address an older case of a British citizen being imprisoned abroad that bears more serious consequences: the Ethiopian dissident Andy Tsege faces death in his native homeland after a sham trial.
When he was Mayor of London, Boris Johnson wrote to Mr Tsege’s partner, Yemi Hailemariam, to say he regretted that ‘with no foreign policy remit’ he could not directly intervene. Of course, that excuse no longer holds its own now that he has a ‘foreign policy remit’, and then some; he is the head of the UK Foreign Office.
30 MPs don’t think that Johnson – who last month found time to write what was effectively a short novel on his version of a ‘patriotic’ Brexit in the Telegraph – is doing enough to argue Tsege’s case and hold the Ethiopian government to account, and have signed their names to a letter demanding that the case should be taken more seriously.
A political dissident in his time in Ethiopia, Andy Tsege is accused by the Ethiopian authorities of working to bring down the government and was convicted of terrorism offences in absentia in 2009, a crime punishable by death.
Don’t be duped by the potent political tool that is the ‘terrorist’ label – it seems to the Ethiopian government the word simply refers to someone who disagrees with actions of the current leader in the most peaceful and democratic way.
Internal FCO documents, seen by Reprieve, show British officials have privately described Andy’s treatment by the Ethiopian authorities as ‘completely unacceptable’. Of the terror charges, they said they ‘have not been shown any evidence [against Andy]that would stand up in a UK court’. US diplomats who attended the in absentia death sentence said it was ‘lacking in basic elements of due process’ and a form of ‘political retaliation’.
Despite the conspicious evidence that Tsege has been victim to torture and a laughable judicial process, Boris Johnson has reneged on his enthusiasm to demand Tsege’s release from his time as mayor of London. He responded to a letter to the Heads of Law Society saying that he ‘will not interfere in the legal systems of other countries’ and that calling for his release would not ‘be helpful at this stage’.
Tsege’s wife certainly hasn’t forgotten about Johnson’s empty promises, and derided his pathetic cop-out by saying that the reason Tsege isn’t back home in the UK with his three children is because ‘there’s no political will and that’s really the problem.’
He may view the role of Foreign Secretary as simply a stop-gap in his ascent to topple his boss Theresa May in the most Machiavellian fashion, but it’s clear Boris Johnson could do with a reminder that he holds a real, serious job with real, serious consequences. His quaint combination of clownishness and ‘Rule Britannia’ jingoistic rhetoric may make him a legend for mouth-breathing Daily Mail journalists, but it won’t do anything to ease the backlog of individuals who are relying on him to end their bleak situation.
There are lives as stake. Now is as good a time as any for Boris Johnson to start actually doing his job. Bring Andy Tsege home, as was promised to his family.
Leak of Nations | Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe