Brit held on death row for FOUR YEARS reveals harrowing moment he was kidnapped and how he cleaned filthy prison toilets to stay fit

BRIT Andy Tsege sensed he was in trouble when a total stranger gave him a “Judas kiss” as he waited to board a flight in Yemen.

Minutes later, the dad-of-three was handcuffed, with heavy duty tape put on his mouth and eyes and a sack over his head, and bundled into a small plane to Ethiopia. He would not see his family again for four years.

Andy Tsege proposed to long-term partner Yemi on her 50th birthday after his return to London following four years imprisonment in Ethiopia
David New – The Sun

Held captive 3,500 miles from home, Andy was held in solitary confinement for over a year in the east African country.

He was then transferred to notorious Kality Prison – commonly referred to as a “gulag” – where he shared a cell with two convicted murderers and scrubbed the filthy toilets to keep fit.

After four torturous years on death row in Ethiopia, Andy was finally released last month and has been reunited with his family back in north London.

He proposed to long-term partner Yemi on her 50th birthday, on June 24, and the couple will tie the knot at Islington Assembly Hall next month.

It marks a happy ending to what was a nightmare for Andy and his family.

Commonly referred to as a “gulag”, Kality is the main prison in Ethiopia
Andy with Yemi (left), his twins Menabe and Yilak (who are now 11) and Hilawit (who is now 18)
Yemsrach Hailemariam

An outspoken critic of the Ethiopian government, Andy, 63, who had lived in the UK for four decades, was sentenced to death in absentia in 2009 after he was accused of being a terrorist by the Ethiopian authorities after founding a rival political group.

Years passed without any action being taken until he was kidnapped at an airport in Yemen while travelling from Dubai to Eretria in June 2014.

He was in the transit hall and had taken a bus to where he was going to board the plane.

Andy told the Sun Online: “A person I didn’t know came up to me and gave me a hug and a kiss, so I said ‘this is like a Judas kiss sort of thing’. So I knew there was going to be a problem.

“The first load went and then the second bus came and I went to the front of it. They then shut the bus, drove about 100 yards and took me to a small house, a very dirty place.

“There were people there eating the drug Khat, sitting on a low sofa, watching the World Cup on a flat screen. They went through my bag, took my British passport and told me to sit down.

“I was kept there about six hours and then the guys from Ethiopia came and they told me to get up and go with them.”

Fearing the worst, Andy tried to resist them but they quickly turned violent.

Andy discusses his kidnap and four years on death row in Ethiopia with Sun Online reporter Thomas Burrows
David New – The Sun

“They twisted my arm”, he said. “Then something snapped in my elbow and I gave up.

“They bundled me in a Jeep and put heavy duty tape on my mouth and eyes, put a sack over my head and drove me to a small waiting plane. I tried to visualise my family, but the pain was so bad. It was terrible.”

Andy said the first month of imprisonment was the scariest because he had no idea where he was, or if anyone had witnessed his kidnapping.

Speaking to the Sun Online at his Islington home, he said: “Every night when I heard an engine I thought ‘oh they’re coming now to kill me’.

“I was expecting them to shoot me and dump me somewhere.

“I was handcuffed backwards for the first four days and I would rather have died because the pain was so great. I couldn’t sleep, I was going mad, the pain in my shoulder was so great…it was going into my wrist and my hands had swollen up. They chained my legs with heavy chains for two or three months.”

The 63-year-old said he could “relax a little” after he was taken by his captives to the British Ambassador as he realised then “they weren’t going to do anything drastic”.

David New – The Sun

Andy, 63, with Yemi, 50, in their north London home[/caption]

Andy was kept in solitary confinement for a year and a month before being taken to Kality Prison, commonly referred to as a gulag.

“It’s a terrible place”, Andy said.

“They kept me with two convicted murderers, who they’d deliberately chosen to make life really, really bad for me. They created noise throughout the night and they never cleaned the toilet. For three years I cleaned the loo because it was also a form of exercise.

“They were so dysfunctional. I tried to show them how to live but they thought I was stupid [for doing things like cleaning] and they insulted me. They also fought viciously against each other, they hated each other’s guts. If you talked to one, the other one didn’t like you.

“There was a compound, two metres by six, and I was only allowed to exercise on alternate days. In the other cells they were allowed TVs but in my case nothing was allowed. The only thing I was given was books. I did push ups and sit ups, I did a lot of them.

“My father, who lives in Addis Ababa, was allowed to come once a week to see me, for half an hour, and that was to bring me food as well – I would have fresh food for a couple of days and then the rest would be something that you would prepare with hot water.”

Arsenal fan Andy, pictured with his daughter Hilawit, who has waiting for her A-Level results
Yemsrach Hailemariam

After four years imprisonment Andy was pardoned by the newly elected Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on May 19 alongside hundreds of other political prisoners.

He said he found out he would be released after a news bar flashed up on one of the prison TVs, as he waited to see his father on his weekly Saturday visit.

Four days later he was freed from prison and taken to his father’s house on May 29 where he was given a hero’s reception.

Despite the jubilant greeting, he remained nervous because he was still in Ethiopia where some people deeply resented him.

Discussing his reunion with his children Andy said: “The kids are overjoyed. It was my single worry because there were not babies or teenagers, the twins were seven. We spent a lot of time together, playing and I was worried it would be so hard”
David New – The Sun
Andy was mobbed by his supporters when he returned to London Heathrow on June 1
Andy smiles as he returns to his homeland after four years in prison in Ethiopia
Andy and Yemi were reunited last month after four years apart – he’s now proposed to his long-term partner
Andy said the hardest part was missing his twins, who were only seven when he was kidnapped

He said: “Within that crowd I feared someone could do something, as there was no security guarding me. Amongst the crowd there could have been someone who could have knifed me or something.”

After a meeting with the country’s new PM, Andy was finally allowed to return home the following day, where he was given an equally rapturous reception at London Heathrow on June 1.

Seeing his children, 11-year-old twins Yilak and Menabe and 18-year-old daughter Hilawit, was deeply moving.

He said: “That was the most painful thing when I saw the kids. They were crying as well and I tried hard because if I started crying I knew I would not stop and that would distress the kids even more.

“So I looked at the ceiling and somehow I managed but the burning in my throat was just like fire. I then hugged them, I couldn’t talk, I just kissed them, and then hugged them again.”

Andy said he didn’t mind having to clean the toilets in prison as it was a “form of exercise”
David New – The Sun
Andy was kept at Addis Ababa’s notorious Kality Prison for three years
Google Earth

As he adapts back to life in London, Andy said: “It’s been a bit unreal, like I was dreaming but gradually the more you see the family that’s the way you get used to normality.”

His first meal after arriving home was blue cheese and crackers, which is one of his favourite snacks.

Andy’s wife-to-be Yemi, who he met in 1998, said the worst moment was when she was told he’d been extradited to Ethiopia.

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She said: “I will never forget that day. I was on Camden High Street, I was with his brother, and we were waiting to see a lawyer and we heard that news and I was screaming. He took the phone and finished the conversation with the Foreign Office. It was very, very dark.”

But four years on the family have been reunited and now have a wedding to look forward to.

Yemi said: “It’s very, very nice. It will be a celebration for everyone…it’s been a surprise how much happiness people have expressed.”


Born in Addis Ababa in 1955, Andy left Ethiopia in the late 1970s when the country’s military government – known as the Derg – began a crackdown on political opposition, killing hundreds of thousands of opponents, including his younger brother.

Andy fled the country and was granted political asylum in the UK in the 1970s.

He briefly returned to Ethiopia following the 1991 revolution when the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front overthrew the Derg.

He hoped the new government would establish a democratic state in the east African country but became disillusioned with the party’s ethnocentric policies and returned to London two years later.

He went back to Ethiopia in 2005 to campaign for an opposition coalition in the 2005 elections and was arrested in the aftermath.

Back in London he set up the opposition movement Ginbot 7 (15 May) movement in 2008, named after the date of the 2005 elections that were marred by protests over alleged fraud that led to the deaths of about 200 people.

In 2009, he was accused by the Ethiopian authorities of being a terrorist, tried with others in his absence and sentenced to death.

Despite his ordeal in Ethiopia Andy told the Sun Online: “There’s still work we haven’t finished – we were always trying to replicate what we see here [in the UK], there. In Ethiopia it’s still ruled by individuals and not institutions, that’s why we formed that organisation [Ginbot 7]. Not to take political power, but for the creation of independent institutions, like making the Army non-partisan and the security services non-partisan of any organisation and the election board independent of the ruling party.”

“We have work to do on that. This Prime Minister shares the same view, so there is a chance to create these institutions.”

He added: “Politics in Ethiopia is now very ethnic based – so we want to change politics, and make it based on policies, not on ethnicity and we have a role to play in that area.”


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