On Tuesday June 17, I’m delighted to be speaking at a Parliamentary meeting for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, organised by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign and John McDonnell MP. I’ll be joining John, one of a handful of tireless activists in the House of Commons, and other speakers, including Bruce Kent, the journalists Victoria Brittain and Yvonne Ridley, Lindsey German, the chair of the Stop the War Campaign, and US activist Diana Coleman. Jane Ellison, the MP for Shaker’s home constituency of Battersea, where his British wife and four British children live, will provide an update regarding the government’s position, and Joy Hurcombe, the chair of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, will chair the meeting.
The meeting, which runs from 7pm to 9pm, has been given the title, “When will they stop Shaker Aamer’s horrific Guantánamo ordeal?” and it is taking place in Room 12 in the House of Commons. This is a public meeting, and everyone is welcome, although anyone who wishes to attend is advised to arrive by 6.30pm to leave enough time to pass through the security process at St. Stephen’s Gate. For further information, please email the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign or call Ray Silk on 07756 493877.
As the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign explains:
It is over a year since 117,400+ people signed a Government e-petition calling for the release and return of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo to the UK. It also demanded a full debate in Parliament to support new Government initiatives to bring Shaker home.
Last September, the Prime Minister wrote to President Obama re-affirming the commitment of the Government to the urgent release of Shaker Aamer to the UK — this as a priority concern.
It is over a year since President Obama renewed his pledge to close Guantánamo. Yet Shaker remains in chains, locked in a steel cell suffering daily abuse and torture. He has been cleared to leave this illegal prison for over seven years, yet he is still there. Shaker Aamer has suffered horrific mental and physical abuse for over twelve years. He is now very ill.
To save his life, we call on the US and UK Government to release him NOW. Not another day in Guantánamo. No more delays and broken promises. Act now before it is too late to save Shaker Aamer.
I’d like to say that there has been progress on securing Shaker Aamer’s return to his adopted homeland and his family, but that would be to raise false hopes. It is incomprehensible to me that he is still held when the UK has said it wants him back, and the US government has repeatedly cleared him for release, but that is the sad and persistent reality, day after day, week after week, and month after month.
Most recently, on June 3, Shaker’s case was raised in the Guardian by Cori Crider, the strategic director of Reprieve, the legal action charity whose lawyers represent Shaker and other prisoners still held.
Crider was responding to the recent prisoner exchange that has been cynically seized upon by opponents of President Obama and used to raise a storm of artificial hysteria — the release of five Taliban prisoners in Guantánamo for the sole US prisoner of war, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Lost in the kerfuffle over the Bergdahl-Taliban swap is one simple and very positive development: we now know that, when push comes to shove, the Defense Department and the White House can work together to close Guantánamo Bay.
Never mind the so-called “Taliban Five” — Obama’s real chance on Gitmo today is for the Cleared 78. With another stroke of Obama’s pen, many of those prisoners could be on a plane back to their families tomorrow.
She also stated:
Take the cleared Briton, Shaker Aamer. He’s been told he would go home since 2007, and has a wife and four kids waiting for him in London. Prime Minister David Cameron has said getting him home is a top priority and has raised his case directly with Obama, because his ongoing detention is an embarrassment for Her Majesty’s Government.
So what, precisely, is the holdup? If Qatar can be trusted to look after five senior Taliban, it’s plain that America’s closest counter-terror ally, Britain, is competent to receive a man nobody suggests is dangerous.
What else can be added? The UK is indeed “competent to receive a man nobody suggests is dangerous,” and Shaker should be put on a plane home tomorrow.
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 six-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, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
On Facebook, Pauline Kiernan wrote:
Diana Murtaugh Coleman wrote:
Thanks, Andy. Working on the words. Full stop.
Carol Anne Grayson wrote:
Unfortunately cant be there but if its possible to mention my serious concerns as a qualified psychiatric nurse regarding his mental wellbeing in continued detention and the issue of force feeding if this is still happening and the need for his children to see him.. will repost their letter thanks
Carol Anne Grayson wrote:
Thanks, Pauline, Diana and Carol. Great to hear from you all. I’m sure it will be a good evening, but it’s so depressing that there’s no obvious way forward.
Carol Anne Grayson wrote:
Bob Bergdahl will help once he has settled in with his son.. he may have some influence. He was planning a trip over here to highlight Shaker… when news broke of Bowe…
Thanks, Carol. Good to hear. I understand that Bowe is now back in the US: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/14/us/bergdahl-returns-to-us-for-more-treatment.html
Harriet Wong wrote:
So glad this meeting’s in the evening, will be attending and spreading the word. Thanks Andy, to you and your colleagues also speaking, for your desperately important work.
Thanks, Harriet. Great to hear from you. See you there.
Can they not make a deal with him? He promises not to sue the British Government, and in exchange he gets set free.
He already dropped his torture claim, Thomas, and it’s made no difference. It was announced at the end of March: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2592512/Shaker-Aamer-Briton-held-Guantanamo-drops-torture-claims-freedom-bid.html
My feeling is that the problem is that there are some in positions of power and influence in both the US and the UK who want him to be sent to Saudi Arabia, even though that would go down very badly in the UK, where lawyers, parts of the media, NGOs, various politicians and other establishment figures would all make a big fuss.
I see no reason at all why they should not let him go. He’s not a terrorist and he’s not going to sue them. Most likely, he’ll end up back in Saudi Arabia though, in a jail there.
I sincerely hope not, Thomas. I hope the British government is aware of their responsibilities to him, as someone who had permanent leave to remain at the time of his capture, and has a British wife and four British children. Fortunately, I think, we have good journalists, lawyers, judges and high-level activists in the UK who would not let Cameron & co off the hook if they allowed it. Their responsibility is to demand his return to the UK, and this is what I was emphasising last night at the Parliamentary meeting.
Also speaking at the meeting: John McDonnell MP (and Jeremy Corbyn MP was also there), Bruce Kent, Victoria Brittain, Lindsay German, Katie Taylor of Reprieve, Diana Coleman and Shaykh Sulaiman Ghani. John Hall, the Parliamentary Assistant to Jane Ellison MP, who is the MP for Shaker and his family, also provided an update, and David Harrold did a great job of chairing. We remain thoroughly committed to securing Shaker’s release, and have some new ideas as a result of the meeting. More information to follow in due course.
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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