London Events: Afghan War Protest, and Vigils for Talha Ahsan and Shaker Aamer, October 5-9, 2013


 I quickly want to point out three forthcoming events for very worthy causes — two tomorrow (Saturday October 5) and one next Wednesday (October 9).

Tomorrow afternoon, at 4pm, I’ll be attending an event to mark the 12th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. This is a horrible anniversary for two particular reasons: firstly, because, as a the father of a 13-year old, it is unacceptable to me that my country has been engaged in permanent war for almost all of his life; and secondly, because, as a writer and activist on Guantánamo, I am aware that the context for the imprisonment of the majority of the men at Guantánamo was the invasion of Afghanistan — where the Geneva Conventions were first discarded, where torture became Standard Operating Procedure, and where indefinite detention without charge or trial became official US policy.

12 years on, and nearly five years after President Obama took office promising to close Guantánamo, his failure to close the prison is a disgrace, and the continued US military presence in Afghanistan continues to demonstrate what a knowledgable friend has described as America snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I can only hope that the major withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan next year will play a part in bringing our warmongering to an end — although I have no rosy illusions about that — and will also severely damage the rationale for continuing to keep Guantánamo open, but in the meantime, to mark this anniversary, I’m taking part in the event below:

Saturday October 5, 4-6 pm: End their wars! Free our prisoners! An event to mark the 12th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan
Giuseppe Conlon Hall, 49 Mattison Rd, Harringay, London N4 1BG.

With Andy Worthington, journalist and author of The Guantánamo Files (and see videos here); Guy Smallman, photojournalist and director of the film “15 Million Afghans“; and Ciaron O’Reilly, anti-war activist; with music by Joe Black, from Dublin, and Razz.
This is a free event, although donations to cover expenses will be gratefully accepted, and any excess will be given to the Bradley Manning family prison transport fund.
Nearest Tube: Manor House. Buses 29, 141, 341.
To RSVP or for further information, email Ciaron O’Reilly.

The other events taking place, which I hope to be able to attend, are as follows:

Saturday October 5, 1-3 pm: London vigil marking 1 year since Talha Ahsan’s Extradition to the US
Parliament Square, London SW1.

It’s one year since Talha Ahsan, a talented poet with Asberger’s Syndrome, was callously extradited to the US with Babar Ahmad and three other men, as part of the rotten US-UK Extradition Treaty. Talha now sits in solitary in a US Supermax prison, awaiting a trial on charges relating to the hosting of a website that would not have led to a trial in the UK, and should never have been allowed to lead to his extradition.
Talha’s brother Hamja writes, “Please come for a photograph in front of Parliament and Big Ben (symbol of London) and Nelson Mandela’s statue to say Bring Talha Home. Photographs will be sent to Talha in his solitary confinement cell.”
See the Facebook page here and read Ian Patel’s fine article about Talha’s extradition in the New Statesman.

Wednesday October 9, 1-3 pm: Vigil for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo
Parliament Square. London SW1.

Every weekday in spring and summer, lunchtime visitors to the Houses of Parliament were greeted by campaigners in orange jumpsuits, from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who has just complained to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which “investigates complaints about the conduct of the UK’s intelligence agencies,” about the intelligence services’ role in his kidnapping and torture, and, in the US, has submitted a motion calling for him to be allowed a visit by an independent medical expert. For the previous vigils, see my photos here and here, and watch a video here.
Cleared for release in 2007 and again in 2010, Shaker’s ongoing detention is an abomination, and an indictment of the indifference of both the US and UK governments. Campaigners will be resuming their daily vigils, beginning on Wednesday October 9, seeking to draw attention to the failures of both President Obama and David Cameron, as well as demanding a full Parliamentary debate about Shaker’s case. Earlier this year, campaigners secured the 100,000 signatures on an e-petition that were necessary to trigger a Parliamentary debate, but all that has happened so far is a backbench debate in Westminster Hall (see the transcripts here and here).

If you are outraged by Shaker’s ongoing imprisonment, please send the following letter (or your own version of it) to your MP (by email) asking them to demand a Parliamentary debate. You can contact your MP here.

Ask your MP to request a full Parliamentary debate for Shaker Aamer

Dear ______,

I am writing to ask you to make urgent representations for a full debate in the House of Commons for the release and return of British resident Shaker Aamer to the UK in accordance with the e-petition process. The Government e-petition requesting “new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the UK from continuing detention in Guantanamo Bay” obtained 117,442 signatures. An adjournment debate was held in Westminster Hall on 24th April but this did not lead to immediate action for Shaker’s return.

In June, in the House of Commons, Prime Minister David Cameron assured Battersea MP Jane Ellison, that he had spoken to President Obama at the G8 summit regarding Shaker Aamer. He said that he was writing to President Obama about the “specifics” of the case and that he would report back on his progress.

But, these are just words and still there is no news of Shaker’s release and return. Recently, two prisoners from Guantanamo were transferred to Algeria. Their story was the same as Shaker’s. They had been held without charge for over eleven years and, like Shaker, they had been cleared for transfer for many years.

The “waiver” legislation in the National Defence Authorisation Act 2013 (Section 1028) was used for these releases. Shaker Aamer should be next on the list to be released. The UK fulfils all the security requirements for Shaker’s return.

I urge you to demand Shaker Aamer’s immediate release and return to the UK. Shaker has been on hunger strike for many months and he is now very weak.

As the days go by, we fear that Shaker may die before he is allowed home.

There have been worrying reports that Shaker Aamer has been threatened with transfer from Guantanamo to Saudi Arabia, a country he fled from nearly 30 years ago. Saudi officials have told him that he would be punished and imprisoned if he is sent there. He would be separated from his British wife and British children for ever. I understand that the UK Government agencies have secretly briefed against Shaker Aamer’s return to the UK. If Shaker is forcibly transferred to Saudi Arabia, they would no longer have to face Shaker’s allegations of torture in the presence of UK agents, when he was harshly interrogated in Afghanistan.

I appeal to you as my MP, to demand that the Government renews its efforts for Shaker Aamer’s immediate release and return to his family in the UK. I ask you to insist that he is not sent for further abuse and cruelty in Saudi Arabia.

The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign holds weekly vigils on Wednesdays opposite the Houses of Parliament from 1pm to 3pm to demand urgent  action to bring Shaker Aamer home. Please support us. Please do what you can to end this shameful injustice to one innocent man and his family.

Yours sincerely,

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

2 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Alka Pradhan wrote:

    Andy – I hope you’ve received your invitation to the Task Force event at Parliament on the 17th?

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, will you be there, Alka? And for anyone wondering, that’s the London launch of the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment’s report, at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition, on Thursday October 17 at 11 am in Portcullis House.
    I wrote about the report here:
    And the report itself is here:

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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