Archive for September, 2015

97-Pound Yemeni Hunger Striker Appears Before Periodic Review Board As Saudi is Approved for Release from Guantánamo

Muhammad al-Shumrani, in a photo included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011.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.

After months of inaction on Guantánamo, there has, in recent weeks, been a flurry of activity, with two prisoners released (one to Morocco and one to Saudi Arabia), and with the approval of two prisoners for release by Periodic Review Boards (Omar Mohammed Khalifh, a Libyan, and Fayiz al-Kandari, the last Kuwaiti in the prison, who was recommended for ongoing imprisonment by a PRB last year, but was given a second opportunity in July to persuade the board that he is no threat to the United States, which was successful).

On Friday, it was also revealed that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo (who I have written about extensively for Close Guantánamo, and for whom I co-founded a high-profile campaign in the UK, We Stand With Shaker), will be freed within the next month, and it is expected that a Mauritanian, Ahmed Ould Abdel Aziz, long approved for release like Shaker, will also be freed soon, along with two the prisoners whose cases are with defense secretary Ashton Carter, but who have not been publicly identified.

Adding to all this news, last week — largely unnoticed in the media — another prisoner was approved for release by a Periodic Review Board, the review process established two years ago to review the cases of all the men who were not previously approved for release by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office, and who are not facing trials. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Release ‘Love and War’ Album for Download, With Songs About Guantánamo, Torture, Austerity and Love

The Four Fathers at Guantanamo, a collage by Bren Horstead of the band fronted by human rights journalist and campaigner Andy Worthington, who wrote the campaign song for the We Stand With Shaker campaign he launched with Joanne MacInnes in November 2014.

Buy ‘Love and War’ here, as a download or CD — or buy individual tracks to download.

It’s been an action-packed week. Last Monday, I promoted the release as a download of Song for Shaker Aamer, by my band The Four Fathers, which I wrote about the last British resident still held in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. We recorded it last November, and it was used in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, a campaign I launched with my activist friend Joanne MacInnes, featuring MPs and celebrities standing with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker. The song is available — on Bandcamp — for just 80p ($1.25), although you can pay more if you wish. We are donating 25% of the takings from the song to Shaker’s family.

After sending out a press release about the download, I was almost immediately asked to appear on RT to promote it — and the Morning Star also featured it. And then, on Friday, came the welcome and long-awaited news that Shaker is to be released! Thanks to everyone who has worked to get him out of Guantánamo and back to his family in London. We anticipate that he will be home within a month, allowing for the statutory 30-day period that the US Congress has insisted on having before any prisoner is released.

‘Song for Shaker’ is just one of eight original songs on ‘Love and War.’ I wrote five other songs, Richard Clare wrote one, and one is an old folk song that I gave a punky roots reggae makeover in the late 1980s while living in Brixton. The Four Fathers are: myself on lead vocals and guitar, Richard on guitar and backing vocals, Bren Horstead on drums and percussion, Andrew Fifield on flute and harmonica, and — not a father — Richard’s son Louis Sills-Clare on bass. Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses the Imminent Release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo with Scott Horton

A previously unseen photo of Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd) with Andy Worthington and Joanne MacInnes of We Stand With Shaker, at the launch of the campaign outside the Houses of Parliament on November 24, 2014 (Photo: Dot Young).On September 25, as the news broke that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, is to be released, the radio host Scott Horton got in touch to ask for a quick interview, and I was, of course, delighted to speak to him, as we have spoken numerous times over the years since he first interviewed me in 2007. Our 15-minute interview is here, as an MP3, and I hope you have time to listen to it, and to share it if you find it useful. You can also find it on Scott’s website here.

Scott asked me to run through Shaker’s story, so I explained how he is a charismatic, eloquent man who always resisted the injustices implemented by the Bush administration in its “war on terror,” and, as a result, came to be regarded as a dangerous individual.

However, although he has persistently caused trouble — righteous, indignant trouble — in US custody, his captors never had a case against him for any activities prior to his capture at the end of 2001 in Afghanistan, where, he has always maintained, he had traveled to provide humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. As a result, in 2007, under the Bush administration, he was told that the US no longer wanted to hold him, and in 2009 he was approved for release by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama shortly after taking office. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Launch YouTube Channel, Play ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ Unplugged

A screenshot of a video featuring Andy Worthington and Richard Clare, two of The Four Fathers, playing an acoustic version of 'Song for Shaker Aamer.'I’ve just launched a YouTube channel for my band The Four Fathers. We’re based in Lewisham, in south east London, and we’re four fathers, as the name suggests — myself on lead vocals and guitar, Richard Clare on guitar and backing vocals, Bren Horstead on drums and percussion and Andrew Fifield on flute and harmonica — plus, last but by no means least, Louis Sills-Clare, Richard’s son, on bass.

The first video I’ve uploaded (see below) features myself and Richard Clare playing an acoustic version of ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’, the song I wrote last year that was used in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, the campaign I launched last November with my activist friend Joanne MacInnes, which has just met with considerable success, as it was announced on Friday that Shaker will soon be released, after nearly 14 years in US custody without charge or trial, and over eight years since he was first told that he would be freed.

The version played by the full band is the opening track on The Four Fathers’ debut album, ‘Love and War,’ which we released on CD in July. It’s available here as a download, for 80p ($1.25), although you can pay more if you want, and 25% of the money received will be donated to Shaker’s family. The other songs on the album are also available to download for 60p ($0.93) each, or you can buy the whole eight-track album as a download for £4.50 ($7) or on CD, with two extra tracks, for £7 ($10.85). As with ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’, you can pay more if you wish for any of the songs or for the album, and if you do so that will be very greatly appreciated. Read the rest of this entry »

28 Veterans of US Intelligence Fight Back Against CIA Claims That the Bush Torture Program Was Useful and Necessary

Anti-torture protestors outside the White House in May 2009, after President Obama's first 100 days in office.Remember back in December, when the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report about the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program was published, with its devastating revelations that the use of torture “was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees,” that the CIA’s justification for its use of torture techniques “rested on inaccurate claims of their effectiveness,” that its interrogations “were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others”? (See my articles here and here).

We all do, of course, and to anyone who has not been fooled by the black propaganda of the torture apologists, it is depressing — if not unpredictable — that, in response, a book has just been published, entitled, Rebuttal: The CIA Responds to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Study of Its Detention and Interrogation Program, published by the US Naval Institute Press, which attempts to claim that the Senate report is biased.

The book contains contributions from, amongst others, former CIA Directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden, former chief legal officer John Rizzo and Jose Rodriguez, the former Chief of CIA’s Counterterrorism Center — all of whom have good reasons to hope that a conjuring trick like this will prevent them from being regarded as they should be, as war criminals evading justice, along with other senior Bush administration officials, up to and including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and others, and a number of senior lawyers and advisers. Read the rest of this entry »

Wonderful News! Shaker Aamer to be Released from Guantánamo – Finally!

Shaker Aamer, photographed at Guantanamo in 2012.I’m delighted to receive the news that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba is to be released, although I must admit I’m slightly numb too. I’ve been hoping for this day — and working towards making it happen — for so long that it’s difficult to believe that it’s true.

But it is true. This afternoon, a British government spokesperson announced that the US government has notified them of the intention to release Mr. Aamer back to his family in the UK, and stated that the US government “has notified Congress of this decision and once that notice period has been concluded, Mr. Aamer will be returned to the UK.”

Under US law, the defence secretary, Ashton Carter, must sign off on any prisoner releases, certifying that all steps have been taken to ensure that it is safe to do so, and Congress then receives 30 days’ notice. As a result, Shaker may not be home until late October, but the announcement of his impending release is a clear cause for celebration. Read the rest of this entry »

Abdul Rahman Shalabi, Long-Term Hunger Striker, Repatriated from Guantánamo to Saudi Arabia

Abdul Rahman Shalabi, in a photo from the classified military files from Guantanamo that were made available by WikiLeaks in April 2011.Yesterday (September 22), the US authorities reduced the population of the prison at Guantánamo Bay to 114 by releasing Abdul Rahman Shalabi, the prison’s most enduring hunger striker, who had been on a hunger strike for over ten years.

As I explained in an article in October 2010, he “weighed 124 pounds when he arrived at Guantánamo in January 2002,” but “rarely weighed more than 110 pounds [after] he began his hunger strike in August 2005, as part of the largest hunger strike in the prison’s history. At one point, in November 2005, he weighed just 100 pounds (PDF) … In September 2009, after four years of being force-fed daily, Shalabi weighed just 108 pounds, and wrote a distressing letter to his lawyers, in which he stated, ‘I am a human who is being treated like an animal.’ In November 2009, when his letter was included in a court submission, one of his lawyers, Julia Tarver Mason, stated, ‘He’s two pounds away from organ failure and death.'”

Shalabi, who is 39 years old, spent a third of his life at Guantánamo, and was one of 48 prisoners designated for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial in January 2010, by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in January 2009, whose remit was to recommend prisoners for release or for trial. In the end, the task force decided that 48 men were too dangerous to release, but that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial. This was deeply problematical, because it meant that the evidence was no such thing — and was, for example, a collection of unreliable statements made by the prisoners themselves, or their fellow prisoners, as a result of torture or other forms of abuse, bribery (the promise of “comfort items” and better living conditions) or exhaustion as the result of never-ending interrogations. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: On RT, Andy Worthington Discusses Release of ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ and the Failure to Free Him from Guantánamo

RT's coverage of Shaker Aamer's story and the release of Andy Worthington's band The Four Fathers' 'Song for Shaker Aamer' on September 21, 2015.Yesterday, after I had released ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ by my band The Four Fathers on Bandcamp, I sent out a press release that was picked up on by RT, who invited me to discuss the release of the song, and Shaker’s ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial in Guantánamo, on the evening news.

I was delighted to cycle down to Millbank Tower for the interview, which was not shown last night, but, I hear, was shown in rotation on the news earlier today, although I didn’t see it until I was sent a link to the video that RT made available on YouTube, which I’m posting below.

My thanks to RT for making the interview available, and for their coverage of the story — the We Stand With Shaker banner projected on a huge screen in the studio, the clips from the song, and my interview, in which I was able to express my profound frustration with the fact that he is still held, despite being approved for release under George W. Bush in 2007 and Barack Obama in 2009, despite the UK government calling for his return since 2007, despite the UK government backing a Parliamentary motion calling for his return in March, despite David Cameron raising his case with President Obama this year, and despite the president promising to “prioritize” his case. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Release ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ as Download: 25% of Takings to Go to Shaker’s Family

The launch of the We Stand With Shaker campaign outside the Houses of Parliament on November 24, 2014, featuring, from L to R: Roger Waters, Clive Stafford Smith, Andy Worthington, Joanne MacInnes and Caroline Lucas.Buy ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ here!

Today, on Bandcamp, I launched ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’, about the last British resident in Guantánamo, as a download, available for just 80p ($1.25) — although you can pay as much as you want for it — with 25% of the money received going to Shaker Aamer’s family.

I wrote ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ last year, and it was used as the song in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, the campaign to free Shaker from Guantánamo, which I launched last November with the activist Joanne MacInnes, and which has secured substantial support, with nearly 100 celebrities and MPs standing with the giant inflatable figure that is at the heart of the campaign.

I recorded ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ with my band The Four Fathers, and it is the opening song on our debut album ‘Love and War.’ The eight-track album is available in its entirety on Bandcamp for £4.50 ($7), or you can buy individual tracks for 60p ($0.93) each, and a CD is also available for £7 ($10.85), which contains two bonus tracks. You can also buy the CD via my website. Read the rest of this entry »

Periodic Review Board Approves Release of Fayiz Al-Kandari, the Last Kuwaiti in Guantánamo

Fayiz al-Kandari, photographed at Guantanamo in 2009 by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.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 Thursday, the same day that it was announced that a Moroccan prisoner, Younous Chekkouri, had been repatriated from Guantánamo, it was also announced that Fayiz al-Kandari, the last Kuwaiti in the prison, had been approved for release by a Periodic Review Board.

The PRBs are made up of representatives of the Departments of State, Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, as well as the office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and they are slowly making their way through the cases of 46 men designated for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established in 2009, and 25 others initially recommended for prosecution until the legitimacy of Guantánamo’s military commissions was shredded by US judges in 2012 and 2013.

And in case you’re wondering — yes, it is unacceptable that a task force appointed by President Obama recommended 46 men for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial — on the basis that they are “too dangerous to release,” but that insufficient evidence exists to put them on trial — because that means it is not evidence, but dubious information that would not stand up to objective scrutiny — the fruits of torture or other abuse, or of the bribery or exhaustion of prisoners, who were relentlessly encouraged to rat on their fellow prisoners or to incriminate themselves. 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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