Political activist and York university tutor Fasil Demsash jailed for rape

A “calculating and manipulative” university tutor who stood for election to City of York Council has been jailed for rape.

The victim told York Crown Court she will never recover from what Fasil Eshetu Demsash, 48, did to her in his house.

“I didn’t just get raped that night. I had my life stolen from me,” she said.

Judge Simon Hickey said she had suffered severe psychological harm and had self-harmed herself so much she had had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance.

Demsash committed the rape six months before he stood as a Labour candidate in the Westfield ward for the 2019 City of York Council elections.

Police revealed today that the victim contacted them as soon as the rape occurred in November 2018 and said Demsash had used his position in the community to try and escape justice.

Demsash, of Hollybank, who has also worked for City of York Council, denied rape but was convicted unanimously by a York jury last month.

Passing the nine-year sentence, the judge said Demsash had bought the 18-year-old teenager alcohol in a social club before going together to a bar and taking her to his home where he raped her.

After the rape “she was left humiliated and had to make her own way home and walk to her home,” he said.

Demsash had “further humiliated her” by forcing her to give evidence against him and questioning her credibility.

Demsash was put on the sex offenders’ register for life and made subject to a sexual harm prevention order banning him from contacting her in any way, also for life.

He has been a tutor at the York and Hull Medical School at the University of York since 2011, and was also studying for a PhD in the philosophy of education.

Detective Constable Alyson Thompson said after the case: “Demsash is a calculating and manipulative man who took advantage of his victim and who has since continued to use his influence to protest his innocence, showing no remorse for his crime.

“From the very outset, he attempted to undermine the victim suggesting she made up the allegation in order to sabotage his political campaign. Despite conclusive forensic evidence he still denied the incident took place, forcing his victim to relive the night over and over again, feeling as though she herself was on trial.

“The victim has been extremely brave by giving her evidence despite having to wait over two years for justice to be done. We hope she will now have some closure, allowing her to move on with her life.”

In her personal statement, the teenager, who was 18 at the time, talked about the “terror and depression I think I will have for the rest of my life” and how she continues to have flashbacks of the rape.

She had found giving evidence against Demsash and reliving the rape in front of a group of strangers in court so traumatic, after she got home, she had got a kitchen knife and cut herself.

She said she couldn’t get counselling to cope with the mental and emotional effects until after the trial, which was delayed for six months by the pandemic.

And she described the walk into the room where she gave evidence as the “longest walk of my life”.

“Having to go through reliving it day by day with the police and friends and family was almost too much for me to take, you just want it to go away, but you also need to get justice and stop this happening to anyone else, the responsibility and expectation to have to go through the whole process is huge and not easy at all,” she said.

“I just want to send all my thoughts and love to anyone that has ever been a victim of sexual assault too. You are a survivor and you are so strong and no one can take that away from you”.

For Demsash, Chloe Farley told the court: “He has worked hard to help those who are perhaps less fortunate and rather struggling in society.”

He had been a counsellor in York, worked in schools and in diversity programmes, as well as highlighting issues of unemployment and homelessness.

Born in Ethiopia he had been arrested and tortured, said Ms Farley, for leading student protests, and on release had fled the country.

He had worked with Human Rights Watch and Amnesty in Kenya before getting asylum in Canada and later coming to England.

City of York Council and the Labour Party declined to comment.  The Press understands Demsash is not a member of the Labour Party. 

York Press | News