Archive for February, 2015

US Ambassador Snubs 60 Celebrities and MPs Calling for Release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer

"There is no love in Guantanamo": Singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor and her mum, actress/presenter Janet Ellis, hold a Valentine's Day card for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantanamo, to mark the 13th anniversary of his arrival at Guantanamo. Supporters of the We Stand With Shaker campaign have been encouraged to send cards to the US Ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun, asking him to ask President Obama to secure Shaker's release.Campaigners will be at US Embassy at 4pm with a giant Valentine’s Day card for Shaker, signed by over 60 MPs, celebrities and other supporters. UPDATE 1.30pm: Music legend Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd) and Saeed Siddique, Shaker Aamer’s father-in-law, will be attending the protest.

Issued as a press release by the We Stand With Shaker campaign.

In a shocking development, the US Ambassador, Matthew W. Barzun, has refused to meet with British MPs, celebrities and other supporters of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, who were planning to hand in a giant Valentine’s Day card for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, on Friday February 13, the day before the 13th anniversary of Mr. Aamer’s arrival at Guantánamo.

The card reads: “We urge you to ask President Obama to secure the immediate release from Guantánamo of British resident Shaker Aamer. Please tell the president we want Shaker returned to his loved ones in London now.”

Shaker Aamer has twice been approved for release by the US authorities — under President Bush in 2007 and under President Obama in 2009. Read the rest of this entry »

On Eve of 13th Anniversary of Shaker Aamer’s Arrival at Guantánamo, Renewed Calls for Action from Barack Obama and David Cameron

Andy Worthington with the Valentine's Day card made by the We Stand With Shaker campaign to mark the 13th anniversary of Shaker Aamer's arrival at Guantanamo.Despite a promise from President Obama to “prioritise” Shaker Aamer’s case after a recent meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, the US defense secretary Chuck Hagel has told reporters that Shaker’s file was “not on [his] desk.”

He reportedly said, “As far as I know, I have made a decision on everything that is ready to be made a decision on.” Mr. Hagel’s role is crucial, as, by law, he must sign off on any planned releases from the prison, after Congress has been given 30 days’ notice.

In a letter to David Cameron, Cori Crider, the Strategic Director of the human right organisation Reprieve, challenged the Prime Minister about what had taken place during his recent meeting with the US president. She wrote:

What assurances were you given regarding Shaker’s case by the President during your visit, beyond what the NSC spokesperson said publicly on Mr Obama’s behalf? Did the President provide any indication on when Shaker’s family can expect to see him returned to London? Did you ask the President to ensure that Shaker’s case was sent to Secretary Hagel for his consideration? And finally, in the light of Secretary Hagel’s comments, will you now press the Obama administration on providing a concrete timetable for Shaker’s return?

Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker on KBOO FM in Portland and Radio Islam in Chicago

Andy Worthington and Joanne MacInnes of We Stand With Shaker with music legend Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd) at the launch of the campaign outside the Houses of Parliament on November 24, 2014 (Photo: Stefano Massimo).I’m happy to make available two recent interviews I undertook with radio stations in Chicago, and in Portland, Oregon.

The first was with an old friend, Linda Olson-Osterlund, for KBOO FM, a community station in Portland, Oregon, and our 27-minute interview is available here, as an MP3, starting at 4:38, after adverts for the radio station.

Linda and I have spoken many, many times before, and it was a pleasure to talk to her again. I was delighted that she opened the show with “Song for Shaker Aamer,” the campaign song I wrote and played with my band The Four Fathers for We Stand With Shaker.

We Stand With Shaker is the campaign I launched two and a half months ago with the activist Joanne MacInnes, to call for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison.

This is how Linda described the show: “Host Linda Olson-Osterlund talks with British author and film-maker Andy Worthington about the news coming out of the illegal prison at Guantánamo Bay and the international protest movement against it. You will hear both good news and bad from prisoner releases to revelations about torture experimentation and murder at the facility. You will also hear about the January 10th protest on Dick Cheney’s lawn and January 11th at the White House.” Read the rest of this entry »

We Stand With Shaker: Send a Valentine’s Card for Shaker Aamer to the US Ambassador in London, to Ask for His Release from Guantánamo

A Valentine's Day card for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantanamo, for supporters to send to the US Ambassador to the UK, asking him to tell President Obama that Shaker must be released.Please print the Valentine’s Card for Shaker Aamer, and send it to the US Ambassador at 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1K 6AH, UK.

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.

February 14, Valentine’s Day, is the 13th anniversary of the arrival at Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison — and also the birthday of his youngest son, Faris, who he has never seen. Although Shaker was first told eight years ago, under George W. Bush, that the US no longer wanted to hold him, and was again told that the US no longer wanted to hold him five years ago — by President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force — he is still held.

Since launching the We Stand With Shaker campaign two and half months ago, Joanne MacInnes and I (the co-directors of the campaign) have secured significant support from within the British establishment for Shaker’s release — from the Daily Mail, from the Daily Telegraph‘s chief political commentator Peter Oborne, and from Conservative MPs including Alistair Burt and Andrew Mitchell, as well as from other Conservative MPs and other politicians from across the political spectrum — Labour, Lib Dem, Green and independents. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Speaks at Two London Events on the CIA Torture Report and the Banned Books of Guantánamo, February 2015

Andy Worthington and the We Stand With Shaker poster at the protest against Guantanamo outside the Whirte House on January 11, 2015, the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison (Photo: Medea Benjamin for Andy Worthington).I’m delighted to report that I’ve been asked to take part in two panel discussions over the next two weeks, and I hope that, if you’re in London, you’ll be able to come along.

The first is at the University of Westminster on Wednesday February 11, when I’ll be discussing the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA torture programme with Philippe Sands QC, a law professor at UCL and a barrister at Matrix Chambers (and the author of Torture Team), and Carla Ferstman, the director of REDRESS, a human rights organisation that “helps torture survivors obtain justice and reparation,” and “works with survivors to help restore their dignity and to make torturers accountable.” The discussion will be chaired by Dr. Emma McClean, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Westminster.

This is how the event is described on the university website: Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Speaks at “Guantánamo At 13: How Obama Can Close the Illegal Prison” in Northampton, Massachusetts

Andy Worthington speaks at a meeting in Northampton. Massachusetts on January 14, 2015 (Photo: Debra Sweet for Andy Worthington).Since my return from my US tour nearly three weeks ago — after nearly two weeks traveling around the East Coast talking about Guantánamo and campaigning for the prison’s closure on and around the 13th anniversary of its opening — I’ve been steadily making available videos of the various events I took part in (in New York, outside the White House, at New America in Washington D.C., and at Western New England School of Law), links to the various radio interviews I undertook (see here and here), and photos of some of the events I was involved in — in particular, the invasion of Dick Cheney’s house and a protest outside CIA headquarters on January 10, and the annual protest outside the White House on January 11.

Unless video surfaces of my last event, in Chicago, on January 15, the video below — at the Friends Meeting House in Northampton, Massachusetts on January 14 — will be the last video I can provide from this particular tour. It was filmed by Ari Hayes, and made available through the AmherstMedia.org website, and it was a great event — with friends old and new; including many Witness Against Torture activists, who I’d been with in Washington D.C., the lawyer and radio host Bill Newman, and the lawyer Buz Eisenberg, who had been presented with a human rights award before my talk and yet insisted on lavishing such praise on me that I thought “This Is Your Life” had been revived and I was the star of the show.

Nancy Talanian of No More Guantánamos, who I stayed with while I was in western Massachusetts, introduce the event, and then Debra Sweet, the national director of the World Can’t Wait, who organized my tour (as she has been doing every January since 2011) introduced me. My talk starts at eight minutes in and for the first ten minutes I spoke about how I had started researching and writing about Guantánamo, and had come to write my book The Guantánamo Files. Read the rest of this entry »

Please Write to the Prisoners in Guantánamo, Let Them Know They Have Not Been Forgotten

Photos of prisoners in Guantanamo, taken from the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011.Every six months, I ask people to write to the prisoners in Guantánamo, to let them — and the US authorities — know that they have not been forgotten.

The letter-writing campaign was started four and a half years ago by two Facebook friends, Shahrina J. Ahmed and Mahfuja Bint Ammu, and it has been repeated every six months (see here, here, here, here, here, here and here). This latest campaign is a month late, for which I apologize, but I forgot over the Christmas and New Year period because I had been so busy with the We Stand With Shaker campaign, calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison.

Since last July, when I last encouraged opponents of Guantánamo to write to the prisoners, there has been significant progress, with 27 men released. 149 men were held at the time, and that number has now been reduced to 122. 25 of those freed in the last seven months were cleared for release in January 2010 by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama when he took office in 2009, and 50 of those still held were also cleared for release by the task force. Four others were cleared for release in recent months by a new review process, the Periodic Review Boards, which started in 2013, and which led to the release of the other two men freed since the last letter-writing appeal. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: On the March for Homes, Thousands Defy the Rain to Demand Secure and Affordable Housing for Ordinary Londoners

The 'March for Homes' in London on January 31, 2015 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Click here to see the whole of my photo set on Flickr.

What an excellent event the ‘March for Homes‘ turned out to be.

Despite hideously inclement weather — it was bitterly cold, and the rain was almost freezing — an estimated 5,000 people marched to City Hall from the Elephant & Castle in south east London and Shoreditch in east London on Saturday to call for secure and genuinely affordable housing for all.

As I explained in the text accompanying my photo set on Flickr:

The protest had real passion and energy, which to be honest, was unsurprising, given the extent of the housing crisis in London, with mortgages unaffordable for ordinary working people, rents spiralling out of control, unscrupulous landlords unfettered by any kind of legislation to protect tenants, and developers making more and more unaffordable new properties for a marketplace swimming with foreign investors, vying with rich Britons to fleece ordinary workers and to drive the unfortunately unemployed out of London altogether.

I wrote my thoughts about the London housing crisis in detail in an article on Thursday, which I recommend for those who want know more of what I think about the single most severe problem currently facing millions of Londoners — the unacceptably disproportionate cost of their housing. It deserves to be a hot election topic, but it remains to be seen if the Labour Party will rise to the occasion — beyond their pledge to scrap the hated bedroom tax — or, if not, if campaigners for restraints on the private rental market, those in social housing and those seeking to preserve it, trade union representatives, members of the Green Party, left-wing Labour Party members and others interested in the importance of social housing can build and sustain a campaign that places housing at the heart of policy-making, where, along with jobs for all (a generally undiscussed topic), it deserves to be. Personally, I’d like to see another ‘March for Homes’ take place in the spring, before the election, when, with good weather, it could be a huge event. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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