Archive for March, 2013

Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo, the Hunger Strike and Shaker Aamer in Westminster, Birmingham and Tooting

Please sign the e-petition calling for the British government to secure the return to the UK from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who has been cleared for release since 2007. 100,000 signatures are needed by April 20.

With a huge hunger strike taking place at Guantánamo, the prison is on the mainstream media’s radar more than it has been for many, many months, if not years — and, in the UK, it is also time for there to be a renewed focus on the case of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison.

Despite being cleared for release under President Bush and President Obama, Shaker is still held, even though he is the one prisoner, out of 86 prisoners cleared for release but still held, who could — and should — be released immediately. Congress has raised obstacles to the release of prisoners to any country that can be regarded as dangerous, but few, if any lawmakers would dare to argue that Britain fits that category.

In the UK, the ongoing detention of Shaker Aamer continues to appal those who have been campaigning for his release for many years — and the British government’s persistent claims that they are doing all they can to secure his return do not sound convincing. Last year, Shaker’s family launched an e-petition asking the British government to explain how, as America’s closest ally in the “war on terror,” it cannot secure Shaker’s return to the UK, to his British wife and four children, and there is now just one month to go for campaigners to try and ensure that the petition gets 100,000 signatures so that it is eligible for a Parliamentary debate. Please note that only British citizens and residents can sign it, although there is no lower age limit, so all family members can sign. Anyone anywhere in the world can sign the international petition here. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser: Last Call for Donations to Support My Work on Guantánamo and Austerity

Please support my work!

Last week was my quarterly fundraiser, in which, as I do every three months, I ask you, my friends and supporters, to donate if you can to support my work, primarily as an independent journalist, researcher and activist on Guantánamo and related issues, but also as a journalist and activist opposing the Tories’ ideologically-imposed austerity programme in the UK, which, at the moment, mostly involves me campaigning to save the NHS, although I try, when I can, to also highlight the government’s disgraceful assault on the disabled.

Although I receive financial support for some of my Guantánamo work, much of what I do is unpaid (see my TV and radio appearances here, for example), as is my political activism in the UK, and, allied to this, my photography. Since last May, I’ve been working as a photographer, mainly on a project to photograph the whole of London by bike, but also photographing protests — to save Lewisham Hospital, my local hospital in London, and also about Guantánamo (both in the UK and the US).

Thanks to the generosity of 17 friends and supporters, I received $550 (£330) last week to support my work, but I’m putting out this final appeal for donations to try and raise a little more. I only put out an appeal every 13 weeks, and it would be wonderful if I could reach at least $1000 (£600) to provide me with much-needed financial assistance for the three months to come. Read the rest of this entry »

More Photos from “Born in Lewisham,” the Protest to Save Lewisham Hospital, March 16, 2013

Hands around Lewisham HospitalSave Lewisham Hospital: Campaigners outside A&ESave Lewisham Hospital: Millwall F.C.'s bus outside A&ESave Lewisham Hospital: Business as usualBusiness as usual: Save Lewisham Hospital maternity servicesBorn at Lewisham 27.2.13
Save Lewisham Hospital: Campaigners in Ladywell FieldsA victory for Lewisham Hospital is a victory for everyoneAt "Born in Lewisham" protest, Louise Irvine addresses the crowdLocal rapper Question at "Born in Lewisham" protest"Born in Lewisham": The crowd during Question's official campaign songQuestion and Snipez rap to save Lewisham Hospital A&E
Lewisham rapper Question and Zampa the Lion, Millwall F.C.'s mascot

More Photos from “Born in Lewisham,” the Protest to Save Lewisham Hospital, March 16, 2013, a set on Flickr.

On Saturday, another high-profile event took place in the campaign to “Save Lewisham Hospital” from destruction by senior NHS managers and the government, with an event entitled, “Born in Lewisham,” in which campaigners showed their support for the hospital with a gathering outside the entrance on Lewisham High Street, and a rally afterwards in Ladywell Fields, with speakers, music and stalls.

The particular focus of the event was on people born in Lewisham Hospital, who were encouraged to show their support for the hospital by having their photos taken for a photo gallery (forthcoming on the Save Lewisham Hospital website) and carrying home-made placards or wearing T-shirts with personalised messages. Some of those photos are featured in this photo set, and the previous one which I posted on Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »

How Long Can the Government Pretend that the Massive Hunger Strike at Guantánamo Doesn’t Exist?

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

On March 14, 2013, 51 attorneys for prisoners at Guantánamo wrote to defense secretary Chuck Hagel to express “urgent and grave concern” about the mass hunger strike that has been taking place at the prison for the last five weeks, involving over a hundred of the 166 men still held — and to urge him “to address the underlying causes of the strike and bring it to a prompt and acceptable end.”

On March 4, some of the attorneys previously wrote to Rear Adm. John W. Smith, Jr., the Commander of Joint Task Force Guantánamo, and Capt. Thomas J. Welsh, the Staff Judge Advocate, reporting “information received from clients about the hunger strike and its effects on the men.” Although they requested an answer to their letter, no response was received, and in the meantime, as they explained in their letter to Chuck Hagel, “we have received additional reports from clients that the strike is ongoing and that the health of the men has continued to deteriorate in alarming and potentially irreparable ways.”

As the lawyers proceeded to explain, “we understand that the hunger strike was precipitated by widespread searches of detainees’ Qur’ans — perceived as religious desecration — as well as searches and confiscation of other personal items, including family letters and photographs, and legal mail, seemingly without provocation or cause. We also understand that these searches occurred against a background of increasingly regressive practices at the prison taking place in recent months, which our clients have described as a return to an older regime at Guantánamo that was widely identified with the mistreatment of detainees. Indeed, the conditions being reported by the men appear to be a significant departure from the way in which the prison has operated over the past several years.” Read the rest of this entry »

Born in Lewisham: Photos of the Protest to Save Lewisham Hospital, March 16, 2013

Save our hospitalSave Lewisham HospitalLewisham siblingsLewisham familyProtest hatLewisham hospital saved me
Born in Lewisham HospitalSave Lewisham Hospital campaigners outside A&EThe "Born in Lewisham" protest, March 16, 2013Strawberry Thieves ChoirNo to Privatisation of the NHS!Protect maternity services
Lewisham's services: Choose them! Use them! Don't lose them!The family born in Lewisham HospitalThe teenager born in Lewisham

Born in Lewisham: The Protest to Save Lewisham Hospital, March 16, 2013, a set on Flickr.

On March 16, 2013, the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign organised a protest and publicity event, entitled, “Born in Lewisham,” outside the endangered hospital — serving a population of 270,000 people — on Lewisham High Street.

The campaign was established in October 2012, when Matthew Kershaw, an NHS Special Administrator appointed to deal with the financial problems of a neighbouring trust, the South London Healthcare Trust (based in Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley), recommended that Lewisham Hospital — which is not part of the SLHT and has no financial problems — should merge with one of the SLHT’s hospitals, the Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich, and should have its A&E Department closed and other frontline services — including maternity — severely downgraded. In Lewisham, this would mean tens of thousands of emergencies having to be dealt with elsewhere, as well as 90 percent of Lewisham’s mothers having to give birth outside the borough. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: On Guantánamo Hunger Strike, Andy Worthington Tells RT that Prisoners “Feel They’re in a Living Tomb”

Yesterday, I spoke to RT about the ongoing hunger strike at Guantánamo, which involves over a hundred of the remaining 166 prisoners. I first discussed it last week in an article entitled, “A Huge Hunger Strike at Guantánamo,” which, I’m glad to note, was very widely read.

The six-minute video is available below via RT’s YouTube channel, and below is a transcript of the interview, made available by RT (where the video is also available). I do hope you have the time to watch it, and if you like it, please feel free to share it, to let as many people as possible know about the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo, over 11 years after the prison first opened, and over four years since President Obama came to office promising to close it.

“Gitmo prisoners feel they are in a living tomb”
RT, March 14, 2013

There is a palpable sense of despair amongst the Guantánamo Bay prisoners, both those who years ago had been told they would be released and those who were designated for indefinite detention, investigative journalist Andy Worthington told RT. Read the rest of this entry »

While Tyrants Sleep: Photos of Canary Wharf at Night

Canary Wharf at night from Marsh WallThe East Wintergarden, Canary WharfOne Canada Square and the West WintergardenOne Canada Square: nearerWest India Docks from South Quay FootbridgeCanary Wharf walkway
Inside the West WintergardenThe back of Canary WharfOpulent foyer2:22 in Canary WharfIlluminated trees in Canary WharfDeptford butchers
The Deptford anchor

While Tyrants Sleep: Canary Wharf at Night, a set on Flickr.

On November 14, 2012, as I explained in my previous photo set, “Curious Insomnia: A Journey through Deptford and Millwall to Canary Wharf at Night,” I decided, at 1am, to cycle from my home in Brockley, in south east London, down through Deptford and Greenwich, and through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel to the Isle of Dogs, where I cycled through Millwall, via the former docks and South Quay Plaza (and the DLR station) to Canary Wharf, the multi-towered financial centre and underground shopping complex that has been sucking the lifeblood out of the rest of London since it overcame its early wobbles under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and became a magnet for dodgy unregulated bankers and obsessive materialists during the reign of Tony Blair.

It is, in fact, a place which, as Owen Hatherley explained in an excellent article for the Guardian last year (which I also drew on here), is responsible for “the most spectacular expression of London’s transformation into a city with levels of inequality that previous generations liked to think they’d fought a war to eliminate.” Read the rest of this entry »

Why Sulaiman Abu Ghaith Should Be Tried in Federal Court

If you have the time, please look at “Abu Ghaith and All Terror Suspects Should Be Tried in Federal Courts,” an article I wrote that was published yesterday as part of US News & World Report’s “Debate Club.” In the article, I support the decision to prosecute alleged Al-Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, recently extradited from Jordan, in a federal court in New York.

If you like the article, please vote for it (click on the “up” arrow just below the heading).

There are seven articles in total in the debate, comprising a variety of viewpoints, and it is important that those of us who believe in justice and the rule of law send a message to those who advocate military commissions, military custody, sending Abu Ghaith to Guantánamo and/or subjecting him to torture, by voting them down in the debate, as their poisonous opinions are groundless and damaging to all notions of justice.

As I point out in my article, terrorism is a crime, and federal courts are the correct venue for trying crimes. The military commission system — which should never have been revived by the Bush administration — is a broken, discredited system that is not fit for purpose, and the suggestion, by lawmakers including Mitch McConnell, that Abu Ghaith should be sent to Guantánamo, where he can be “fulsomely and continuously interrogated,” is a disgrace. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser Day 3: Seeking $2000 to Support My Guantánamo Work

Please support my work!

Every three months, I ask you, my friends and supporters, to help me to carry on being an independent investigative journalist, commentator and activist — primarily on Guantánamo and the so-called “war on terror” — by donating to support my work.

Today is the third day of my quarterly fundraiser, and thanks to the generosity of nine friends and supporters, I’ve so far received over $250, for which I’m extremely grateful. I’m now putting out this second call for donations to see if anyone else can help.

All contributions are welcome, whether it’s $25, $100 or $500 — or, of course, the equivalent in pounds sterling or any other currency. $25 is just $2 a week to support my work, which, I hope, is good value for money!

Readers can pay via PayPal from anywhere in the world (just (click on the “Donate” button above), but if you’re in the UK and want to help without using PayPal, you can send me a cheque (address here — scroll down to the bottom of the page), and if you’re not a PayPal user and want to send a check from the US (or from anywhere else in the world, for that matter), please feel free to do so, but bear in mind that I have to pay a $10/£6.50 processing fee on every transaction. Securely packaged cash is also an option! Read the rest of this entry »

Curious Insomnia: Photos of a Journey through Deptford and Millwall to Canary Wharf at Night

Budul TelecomDeeplexDeptford High Street at nightDeptford stationCanary Wharf coloursA tree by the Thames in Greenwich
Railway arches, MillwallIsle of Dogs supermarketMillwall Dock at nightMillwall Dock and Canary Wharf at nightMore to enjoySouth Quay
South Quay reflectionsSouth Quay station

Curious Insomnia: A Journey through Deptford and Millwall to Canary Wharf at Night, a set on Flickr.

At 1 am on November 14, 2012, I decided to take a late night bike ride to Canary Wharf, the modern mutant offspring of the City of London. The City is an ancient lawless zone, but it is now rivalled by the lawlessness of the Docklands project initiated under Margaret Thatcher, which expanded hugely under Tony Blair.

Canary Wharf, which I first photographed here, fascinates and repels me. Its towers, with their horribly ostentatious show of wealth, and their disdain for even vaguely concealing how much money can be made through devious behaviour that ought to be illegal — and in many cases is — are visible from almost everywhere, and are particularly dominant from all over south east London, where I live. However, while the buildings are, in some ways, architecturally impressive, that is not all that calls out across the miles when One Canada Square and its phallic companions are glimpsed from afar. The wealth they display is also meant to intimidate and/or dazzle those mere mortals — the majority of us, in other words — who earn in a lifetime what well-paid bankers take home in a year.

I’ll be analysing Canary Wharf further in the article following this one, which features the photos I took in the heart of Canary Wharf. In contrast, this set features the start of my journey, through Deptford and Greenwich, including Deptford High Street, which stands in total contrast to the wealth and rarefied shopping malls of Canary Wharf (which I photographed here). I then cycled through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, and took photos in Millwall, and also of Millwall Inner Dock, South Quay DLR station and the mainly residential developments around them, including the Pan Peninsula towers, luxury high-rises that deliberately scorn the ordinary humans below, with their promotional material celebrating those who “inhabit a private universe.”

For now, I hope you enjoy this photo set, the 84th in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, which I began last May. The photos from the heart of Canary Wharf will follow soon.

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, Twitter, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. 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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