Exiled opposition chief 'extradited' back to Ethiopia, sets diplomatic test for Britain

Addis Ababa considers Andargachew Tsige's Ginbot 7 a terrorist organisation, but its members say they are fighting for democracy.

An exiled Ethiopian opposition leader with British citizenship has been extradited to Addis Ababa “for slaughter”, an opposition group claimed on Friday, setting the stage for an examination of diplomatic practice.

Andargachew Tsige, secretary general of Ginbot 7—labelled a terrorist organisation under Ethiopian law—was arrested while in transit through Yemen last month. Britain, accused of failing to prevent his extradition, has already expressed “deep concern” about his fate.

Government spokesman Getachew Reda on Thursday called Andargachew “a criminal” who “definitely will have his day in court” but Ethiopian authorities would not confirm if he was in their custody.

“Andargachew has been given for slaughter,” Ginbot 7 said in a statement, warning Yemen that it had made a “historical mistake”.

Campaign group Amnesty International said he is “at risk of torture and other ill-treatment”.

Tsige is Ethiopian born with British citizenship.

Britain’s Foreign Office said it was investigating reports and working to confirm Andargachew’s whereabouts.

“UK officials have pressed the Yemeni authorities at senior levels to establish his whereabouts,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

“We are aware of reports that he may now be in Ethiopia and we are urgently seeking confirmation from the relevant authorities given our deep concerns about the case.” 

If confirmed, the lack of notice to the UK would be in contravention of the Vienna Convention, the Foreign Office said, adding that it opposed the death penalty in “all circumstances”.

“We declare a war in the name of Andargachew for justice, freedom and equality,” Ginbot 7 added.

Ethiopia officials did not indicate if Andargachew was in Addis Ababa. “I have no idea,” foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti told news agency AFP.

The US-based Ginbot 7 was founded by the former mayor of Addis Ababa, Berhanu Nega, currently living in exile in America.

Several people were convicted under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism legislation in 2012 for having links to the group, including award winning journalist Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage. 

Tsige would be a big catch for Ethiopia but it would then throw up the diplomatic question of how he came to be in their custody. Britain and Ethiopia do not have an extradition treaty, while it was not clear if Addis Ababa maintains one with Sana’a.

‘Fighting for democracy’
Ginbot 7 says it is fighting for democracy in Ethiopia and calls for the violent overthrow of the ruling party.

Its name commemorates the Ethiopian calendar date—May 15 in the Gregorian calendar—when post-election violence in 2005 left over 200 people dead.

US-based Ginbot 7 spokesman Ephrem Madebo had earlier told the BBC that Tsige had been on his way from the United Arab Emirates to Eritrea when he was detained during a stopover at Sana’a airport on June 23.

Madebo said British officials had informed the group that Yemen’s ambassador to UK had told them the activist had been handed to Ethiopia.

Britain is a major donor to Ethiopia and maintains significant influence in the Horn of Africa country. 

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