Shaker Aamer’s 5000th Day in Guantánamo – and My 2500th Post

24.10.15

Andy Worthington pledging support for the new Fast For Shaker campaign.

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My friends,

It’s a big day today — 5000 days since Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, arrived at the prison from Afghanistan, where he had already been held for two or three months in appalling conditions. If all is well, Shaker will not stay much beyond his 5000th day, as today is also the day that the statutory notification period required by Congress before they will allow President Obama to release anyone from Guantánamo expires — and a month ago the president told David Cameron that Shaker would be freed.

5000 days would be a long sentence if Shaker had committed any kind of crime, but in fact he has never been charged or tried by the US, and he was first told eight years ago, under President Bush, that the US no longer wanted to hold him, and was told the same thing almost six years ago, under President Obama, as a result of the recommendations of the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that Obama set up shortly after taking office in January 2009.

His imprisonment for all these years is an indictment of the fundamental lawlessness of Guantánamo. Because Shaker is an eloquent, charismatic and irrepressibly outspoken critic of the US’s post-9/11 lawlessness and cruelty, he was, first of all, subjected to discussions about whether he could be sent back to the country of his birth, Saudi Arabia, where he would have been silenced, rather than to the UK, where he was granted indefinite leave to remain, and where he has a British wife and four British children.

When that option was ruled out, it was followed by the dragging of heels until campaigners in the UK exerted sufficient pressure to awaken widespread indignation, large parts of the media supported Shaker’s release, and there was support from a cross-party group of MPs — set up by John McDonnell MP, who is now the Shadow Chancellor, and featuring Jeremy Corbyn, who is now the leader of the Labour Party.

The Shaker Aamer Parliamentary group, also including the Conservative MPs David Davis and Andrew Mitchell, Green MP Caroline Lucas and Shadow Justice Secretary Andy Slaughter, tabled a Parliamentary motion in March calling for the government to support Shaker’s release (which they did), and in May a delegation also visited the US to meet Senators and representatives of the Obama administration.

I am pleased to have played a role in this story — as a campaigning journalist for the last ten years, and through campaigning with the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, and, in the last year, through the We Stand With Shaker campaign I set up with Joanne MacInnes, with its giant inflatable figure of Shaker that attracted so much celebrity support, and initiatives like the open letter to President Obama on July 4, and the Fast For Shaker campaign that has been running for the last two weeks. Sign up here if you’d like to join 378 other people fasting for 24 hours in solidarity with Shaker.

Today is also a personal milestone — this is my 2500th post since I began publishing articles as a freelance investigative journalist back in May 2007 — after 14 months spent researching and writing my book The Guantánamo Files.

Noticeably, my work on Guantánamo has repeatedly involved Shaker’s case. 270 of my 2500 articles — over 10% of the total — are about Shaker, more than for any other prisoner, as befits someone who has been the most diligent, prominent and persistent of the critics of Guantánamo inside the prison — “behind the wire”, as I put it in my ‘Song for Shaker Aamer.’ As I state in the chorus:

Shaker Shaker
They chain your body but they cannot chain your mind
You tell truth to power
Even though you are behind the wire

If you’d like to support me financially, please click on the donate button above. I have no salary or institutional support for my work, and, as a result I am very largely dependent on your generosity to enable me to work as tirelessly for the closure of Guantánamo as I do.

I’m going out now, to talk and play at a vigil for Shaker, from 2-4pm, opposite 10 Downing Street, marking his 5000th day in Guantánamo. I’ll be playing ‘Song for Shaker Aamer‘ with members of my band The Four Fathers, with whom I recorded ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ for our debut album ‘Love and War’, and also for the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, posted below.

I am hoping that very soon I can change all the lyrics to the past tense, and rewrite a few key passages!

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album, ‘Love and War,’ is available for download or on CD via Bandcamp — also see here). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — 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.

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

10 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this, I wrote on Facebook:

    I’m just going out to attend the vigil ouside Downing Street marking Shaker Aamer’s 5000th day in ‪Guantanamo‬ – and hoping for his return to the UK tomorrow – or in the next few days. I’ll also be playing my ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ with my band The Four Fathers. This is also my 2500th post – and if you like my work, please feel free to make a donation, as my work is largely reader-funded. And if you want to do something else, join the ‪#‎FastForShaker‬ for 24 hours, with 378 other people worldwide: http://www.fastforshaker.org.uk/pledge-a-fast/

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Jamal Ajouaou wrote:

    Imagine 5000 days of physical and mental torture .

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Hard to imagine, Jamal. My son was 2. Now he’s going to be 16.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    When my friend Michael Bentley shared this, he wrote:

    A milestone for my friend Andy Worthington – and an appalling one for Shaker Aamer, an innocent man whose imprisonment for 5000 days after being cleared for release by two US presidents, is as Andy says here, ”an indictment of the fundamental lawlessness of Guantanamo.” Here’s hoping it will only be 2 or 3 days before Shaker is finally back in London with his loving family. Thinking of you all at the vigil, Andy, and very much hoping it will be the last one needed for Shaker!

  5. arcticredriver says...

    Wow! 2500 articles! A legacy to be proud of…

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for sharing, Michael. It was a good day today. Good energy.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Brigid Mary Oates wrote:

    Take our love with you X

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Will do, Brigid Mary!

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. All available thanks to the archive miracle that is the internet!

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    The Mail on Sunday reports, “The release of the last Briton held at notorious U.S. detention centre Guantanamo Bay has been delayed. Shaker … saw his hopes of finally being reunited with his family this weekend dashed thanks to a political visit to the base … [T]he visit of three Republican senators, on a ‘fact-finding’ mission to the base, once again delayed his long-awaited flight to freedom.” Shaker’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said, “Shaker is being held for purely logistical and political reasons now, which is dreadful. They [the US authorities] have had 30 days to prepare [for his release] – it only took 28 days after 9/11 to start a war in Afghanistan.”
    See: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3288454/Release-Briton-Guantanamo-Bay-delayed-purely-logistical-political-reasons-senators-visit-Cuban-base.html

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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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