I have been mentioning Saturday’s event, “A Day for Shaker Aamer,” for many weeks, in articles promoting screenings of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary I co-directed with Polly Nash, which is being shown on Saturday (Click on the image to enlarge the poster). However, with just four days to go I thought it was time to promote the event specifically. If you’re in London, or anywhere else in the UK and able to travel, then do come along to what promises to be an excellent day devoted to making such a big noise about Shaker’s ongoing and unacceptable detention that the government will have to take notice.
As I have explained on numerous occasions, the failure of the British government to secure Shaker’s return to the UK has been unacceptable since at least 2007, when he was cleared for release by a US military review board, and has been intolerable since, three weeks ago, the coalition government reached a financial settlement with 15 former Guantánamo prisoners, and also with Shaker, to bring to an end a civil claim for damages filed by a number of these men. As I explained in a recent article, this “threatened to wash away the last vestiges of credibility still retained by the government and the security services after disturbing revelations in the case of Binyam Mohamed — a British resident subjected to ‘extraordinary rendition’ and torture — emerged in the Court of Appeal in February.”
As I also explained:
In summer, the first of 500,000 classified documents were released by the court in connection with the civil claim, revealing shocking information about the involvement of Jack Straw and Tony Blair in actively depriving prisoners of their rights, and terrifying the government into making the financial settlement. Tacitly, of course, the settlement also serves as an admission of guilt on the part of the government and the security services, but although it provides some sort of closure for the 15 released prisoners, it still leaves Shaker in limbo.
Shaker needs to be returned immediately to agree his part of the settlement, and also so that an ongoing Metropolitan Police investigation into his claims that British agents were present when he was tortured in US custody in Afghanistan can be concluded. Without this, as David Cameron has conceded, the government’s alternative to the civil claim — a judicial inquiry into British complicity in torture, headed by Sir Peter Gibson — cannot even begin.
As a result, the only convincing explanation for why Shaker is not already back in the UK is that neither the US nor the UK governments can let go of their entrenched position, established over many years, in which Shaker’s release is something to be put off for as long as possible, because, as the foremost defender of the prisoners’ rights, involved in regular negotiations with the authorities and — it seems — subjected to horrendous abuse on the night that three other men died at Guantánamo in June 2006, his release will subject both governments to further scrutiny of their crimes.
With this intense scrutiny of Shaker’s case, there has never been a better time for concerned members of the public, fed up with the lies and prevarications on both sides of the Atlantic, to put pressure on the British government — and the Americans — to secure Shaker’s immediate return to the UK. A draft letter to foreign secretary William Hague is here, and readers can also send a letter to their MPs asking them to raise Shaker Aamer’s case with William Hague. A draft letter is here. Readers can also send a postcard to Daniel Fried, President Obama’s Special Envoy on Guantánamo, asking for Shaker Aamer’s release (although I would cut the section mentioning that the US government can, if it wishes, “charge him promptly and give him a fair trial”).
Saturday’s event, organized by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, based in Shaker’s home borough of Battersea, sponsored by Cageprisoners, Battersea and Wandsworth Trade Union Council and Labour CND, and supported by numerous other organizations, begins at 12 noon, with a rally and demonstration at Ponton Road, Nine Elms, London SW8, the site of the new US embassy. Speakers include:
Steve Bell, Stop the War Coalition
Chris Nineham, Stop the War Coalition
Nahella Ashraf, Chair, Manchester Stop the War Coalition
Shamiul Joarder, Friends of Al-Aqsa
Judith Orr, Editor, Socialist Review
Martin Linton, Shaker’s former MP, who campaigned for Shaker but lost his seat at the General Election
At 12.30, Shaker’s supporters will march to Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, London SW11, and at 2 pm there will be a Public Meeting, chaired by the journalist and playwright Victoria Brittain. Speakers include:
Moazzam Begg, former Guantánamo prisoner and director of Cageprisoners
Ken Livingstone, London Mayoral candidate and former Mayor
Gareth Peirce, human rights lawyer
Yvonne Ridley, journalist
Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North
Anas Altikriti, President and founder, the Cordoba Foundation
Imam Suliman Gani, Tooting Islamic Centre
Lindsey German, Convenor, Stop the War Coalition
Weyman Bennett, Unite Against Fascism
Kate Hudson, Chair, CND
At 4.30 pm, there will be a screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which features the stories of Shaker Aamer and former Guantánamo prisoners Omar Deghayes and Binyam Mohamed, followed by a Q&A session with Omar Deghayes and the film’s co-director, author and journalist Andy Worthington.
I do hope you can make it along on Saturday. For those who can’t — and for those interested in taking further action — I’d also like to wholehearedly recommend two new postcards by Maryam Hassan of the Justice for Aafia Campaign. The first is pre-printed with Shaker’s address at Guantánamo, and the second is pre-printed with the address of William Hague. These will be available at the event on Saturday, and Maryam emailed me to let me know that if any readers would like cards they can email her with their address and quantity required, and she will be happy to oblige.
And finally, here’s a video of Moazzam Begg talking about Shaker Aamer at a meeting of HHUGS (Helping Households Under Great Stress) in Birmingham on August 14, 2010:
And a video of an Iqra TV report recorded last Saturday, featuring Victoria Brittain, David Harrold of the London Guantánamo Campaign and Imam Suliman Gani:
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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