THE BLOG
14/02/2016 15:43 GMT | Updated 14/02/2017 05:12 GMT

My Partner Has Been Kidnapped For 600 Days

Unbelievably, this Saturday 13th marked 600 days of Andy's ordeal. We still have no idea what is going to happen to him. The Ethiopian government is refusing to let me and Andy's kids see him, will not say whether he will be executed or not, and has rejected all his calls for a lawyer. The authorities won't even allow the British government - supposedly a 'close ally' - to regularly visit him, despite Ethiopia's international obligations.

On the morning of 22 June, 2014, the phone rang - it was my partner, Andy. He was in Dubai, and was expecting to take a connecting flight to Asmara the next day. We had a quick, mundane chat about the family holiday we had planned for August - we were supposed to be taking our three kids to Rome.

Ever since he disappeared, I have replayed that conversation countless times in my head.

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Day 10 was, in retrospect, the worst day. That was when the Foreign Office called me to tell me the news: they suspected Andy had been forcibly taken to Ethiopia. This was my worst nightmare.

Born Ethiopian, Andy fled a brutal regime decades ago and built a life for himself in the UK. He is now a well-known advocate for reform in Ethiopia - and in 2009, the country's current government punished him for his activism by sentencing him to death, in absentia.

When I heard where he was, all that kept playing in my head was "Andy is dead now. You will never see him again. He has been dead for the last 10 days, and you didn't even know it." That was a very dark afternoon and night.

Unbelievably, this Saturday 13th marked 600 days of Andy's ordeal. We still have no idea what is going to happen to him. The Ethiopian government is refusing to let me and Andy's kids see him, will not say whether he will be executed or not, and has rejected all his calls for a lawyer. The authorities won't even allow the British government - supposedly a 'close ally' - to regularly visit him, despite Ethiopia's international obligations.

I've spoken to Andy just once since that call in June 2014 - on 14 December 2014, when he was permitted to phone me and the kids for a few brief minutes.

It has taken all my strength to keep believing that Andy is alive - that all we need to do is work hard to try to get him out of the hell hole he is in. Torture is common in Ethiopia's prisons, and I am desperately worried that he is being mistreated.

One of the most heartbreaking, and disappointing, aspects of this nightmarish process has been the British government's failure to take the Ethiopians to task about their shocking treatment of Andy. The Foreign Office is refusing to simply ask for Andy's release, and his return to the UK; instead, diplomats have opted for a 'softly softly' approach. So far, it has got them nowhere.

600 days on from Andy's disappearance, it's fair to say that the campaign to free him is all-consuming - both for me and his kids. Last Tuesday, it was his 61st birthday - and so we used the day to deliver a 129,000-strong petition to Downing Street, calling on David Cameron to secure his release.

Of course, none of this is easy for our nine year old twins and 16 year old daughter. I find it so sad that my children are experiencing such a horrible situation at such a young age. They come to me at the oddest times, and ask me the most random questions: "Is Papa going to die?", "Why is Papa not home yet?", "What is the death penalty?", "When will he call us?", "Why is David Cameron not doing anything?" and so on.

I try to answer in a light tone as much as I can. What worries me is that I don't know for how much longer I can keep it light. I don't know how I can keep alive their hope that their government will do everything it can to bring their Papa home.

Read more about Andy's case: www.reprieve.org.uk/case-study/andargachew-tsege