Archive for October, 2015

Five Days to Go: The Countdown to Shaker Aamer’s Release from Guantánamo

Malila Durant, daughter of We Stand With Shaker co-director Joanne MacInnes, stands with a poster marking the countdown to the hoped-for release of Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo on October 25.Today, October 20, marks five days to the anticipated release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. It was announced on September 25 that he would be coming back to his family in the UK — eight long years after he was first told that the US no longer wanted to hold him — and that announcement coincided with the start of the 30-day notification period required by Congress before a prisoner can be freed. As a result, campaigners expect him to be home on Sunday.

With Guantánamo, however, nothing is certain until it has happened, and as a result, last week, myself and Joanne MacInnes — the co-founders and co-directors of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, launched last November to publicise Shaker’s plight through the use of a large inflatable figure of him — set up a new campaign, Fast For Shaker, encouraging supporters to fast for a day in solidarity with Shaker (who is on a hunger strike in Guantánamo), and also to keep up pressure on the Obama administration to make sure he is freed as soon as the 30-day notification period is over. That campaign continues, with, to date, 283 people having pledged to fast — and 33 of those are fasting today.

Also today, in a further initiative to keep the pressure on, the We Stand With Shaker campaign is counting down to the date when Shaker should be a free man with the first in a series of countdown posters. Today’s poster, ‘5 Days to Go’, is held by Malila Durant, the 11-year old daughter of Joanne MacInnes. Tomorrow, the actress Harriet Walter and the actor Guy Paul will be holding signs, and this initiative will continue until Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play “81 Million Dollars” About the US Torture Program, Calling for Bush, Cheney and Others to be Held Accountable

Richard Clare and Andy Worthington of The Four Fathers play '81 Million Dollars', Andy's song about the US torture program, in a screenshot from a video.To coincide with some renewed activity in connection with the Bush administration’s torture program — namely, the ACLU suing James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the former military psychologists who set up the program — I’m taking the opportunity to make available a video of my song ‘81 Million Dollars‘ about the torture program, and about Mitchell and Jessen.

$81m is the amount Mitchell and Jessen were paid for taking their experience as psychologists involved in the US military’s SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) program — which involved subjecting US personnel to torture to prepare them if they were seized by a hostile enemy — and reverse-engineering it for use in real-life situations, something for which they were abjectly unqualified.

The result, as the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s CIA torture report made clear last December, was unspeakably brutal and pointless, producing no information that could not have been produced without the use of torture. It also involved the CIA lying about its actions.

See below for the video, of myself and Richard Clare of my band The Four Fathers, playing the song last month while my friend Todd Pierce (the former military defense attorney who represented Guantánamo prisoners in their military commission trials) was staying with me. Please note also that the version by the full band is available here on Bandcamp, where those interested can buy it for just 60p ($0.93), or as part of the whole of our album ‘Love and War’ — as a download or on CD. Read the rest of this entry »

Fast For Shaker Supporters Encourage Shaker Aamer to End Hunger Strike, Maintain Pressure to Get Him Home By October 25

Cori Crider of Reprieve, photographed as part of the Fast For Shaker on October 15, 2015, shortly after returning from Guantanamo, where she and her legal team had spent six hours with Shaker Aamer.As people around the world continue to undertake 24-hour fasts in solidarity with Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo — as part of the Fast For Shaker campaign I launched last week with the activist Joanne MacInnes, with whom I set up the influential We Stand With Shaker campaign last year — there has been some very positive news from Cori Crider, one of Shaker’s lawyers at the London-based legal charity Reprieve, who told me when we met at the weekend that, on her visit to Guantánamo last week, Shaker had been persuaded to break his strike, and to drink a calorie-rich mango smoothie, because he was so moved by the pledges of campaigners to fast on his behalf, so that he can look after himself prior to his release from Guantánamo and his return to his family in London. I am not entirely sure that he has completely given up his hunger strike, but the fact that he has been so moved by campaigners that he has been taking in sustenance is great news indeed.

Shaker’s return to the UK should take place by October 25 — at the end of the 30-day notification period that the US Congress insists on, which campaigners have been marking ever since it was announced on September 25 that President Obama had told British Prime Minister David Cameron that Shaker is be freed.

The second aim of the rolling Fast For Shaker was to make sure that the administration kept to its word, and on that front it is, of course, worthwhile for people to keep fasting, and to keep pledging to fast. Shaker was first told that the US no longer wanted to hold him eight years ago, and was told this again six years ago under President Obama, after a high-level, inter-agency review process, the Guantánamo Review Task Force, also concluded that he should no longer be held. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Speaks to RT at the Launch of Fast For Shaker in London on October 15

Andy Worthington, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Joanne MacInnes at the launch of Fast For Shaker outside Parliament on October 15, 2015 (Photo: Seb Corbyn for Andy Worthington).Many thanks to RT for their excellent coverage of Thursday’s press launch, opposite Parliament, of the Fast For Shaker campaign set up by myself and Joanne MacInnes, the founders of the We Stand With Shaker Campaign that we launched 11 months ago, with a giant inflatable figure of the last British resident in Guantánamo that grabbed people’s attention, with celebrities and MPs happy to Stand With Shaker and to call for his release, as the years roll on since he was first approved for release — in 2007 under George W. Bush, and in 2009 under Barack Obama.

I was fasting on Thursday, with 75 other people around the world — a few of whom were also in London for the launch, including Jo — and it was quite demanding, as a result, running around trying to make sure it all ran smoothly, although I’m glad to say it did. See my photos here, and my report here.

RT interviewed me, John McDonnell, the comedian Sara Pascoe, and Shaker’s father-in-law Saeed Siddique, and I recommend all those interviews as well as the interview with the actor and director Mark Rylance, who took place a few days before. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: Fast For Shaker Press Launch – MPs and Campaigners Show Solidarity with Shaker Aamer, on a Hunger Strike in Guantánamo

The Fast For Shaker launch in London, outside Parliament, on October 15, 2015 (Photo: Andy Worthington).See my photos on Flickr here.

Today was the launch of Fast For Shaker, a new campaign by myself and Joanne MacInnes, who set up the We Stand With Shaker campaign last November, calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. Although Shaker was told on September 25 that he will be freed, and could be by October 25 (allowing for a 30-day notification period insisted upon by the US Congress), there is no guarantee that he will be freed on that date, and in the meantime he has embarked on a hunger strike, in protest at his continuing ill-treatment.

The Fast For Shaker campaign was set up to encourage celebrities, MPs and concerned citizens around the world to pledge to fast for 24 hours in solidarity with Shaker, beginning today, October 15, and continuing until Shaker is freed. It is also intended to keep up the pressure on the Obama administration to make sure that he is freed on October 25, and that there will be no more delays. Given that Shaker was approved for release under George W. Bush in 2007, and under President Obama in 2009, it is understandable why Shaker’s supporters — and Shaker himself — fear that he might not be freed as promised.

Those attending the launch included John McDonnell MP (Labour), the founder and co-chair of the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, Caroline Lucas (Green) and Andy Slaughter (Labour), vice-chairs of the Parliamentary Group, Clive Lewis (Labour) and Tania Mathias (Conservative). Also attending was the actor David Morrissey and the comedian Sara Pascoe, Shaker’s father-in-law Saeed Siddique, myself and Joanne, and Joy Hurcombe, the chair of the long-running Save Shaker Aamer Campaign. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Discusses the Fast For Shaker Campaign on London Live

A screenshot of Andy Worthington appearing on London Live with Reya El-Salahi to discuss the launch of the Fast For Shaker campaign on October 14, 2015.Yesterday was busy. In the morning, there was a meeting of the All-Party Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, chaired by David Davis MP, with Andrew Mitchell, Andy Slaughter, Tania Mathias and other MPs attending, and representatives of Reprieve, Amnesty International UK (and Naureen Shah visiting from Amnesty International USA), the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, the London Guantánamo Campaign and Joanne MacInnes and myself from We Stand With Shaker.

I then cycled to Kensington to be interviewed on London Live, the TV channel of Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the Independent and the Evening Standard, by presenter Reya El-Salahi prior to tomorrow’s launch. This was a great little interview, in which I was able to run through why Joanne and I set up Fast For Shaker, launching outside Parliament (in Old Palace Yard by the George V statue) at 1pm on October 15, an initiative that involves asking celebrities, MPs and concerned citizens around the world to fast for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, who’s taking part, and what it might mean for Shaker’s family in Battersea.

The interview is posted below, and I hope you have time to watch it, and to share it if you find it useful: Read the rest of this entry »

Fast For Shaker: Press Launch of New Campaign in Solidarity with Shaker Aamer, on a Hunger Strike in Guantánamo, London, Thursday 15th October

The poster for the new Fast for Shaker campaign, launched by We Stand With Shaker.I’m in a hurry, so please see below for the press release for tomorrow’s launch, in London, of We Stand With Shaker‘s new initiative, Fast For Shaker. This morning, I was at a meeting of the All-Party Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group with MPs David Davis, Andrew Mitchell, Andy Slaughter, Tania Mathias and others, plus lots of campaigners.

Then I was in Kensington for an interview on London Live, about the launch of Fast For Shaker, which I hope is online somewhere. More info later. For now, here’s the press release. if you’re in London, please come along! Otherwise, keep signing up for the fast, and send in photos!

Celebrities, MPs and Campaigners Start Rolling 24-Hour Fast in Solidarity with Shaker Aamer, on a Hunger Strike in Guantánamo

MPs David Davis, John McDonnell, Caroline Lucas, Andy Slaughter, Tania Mathias, Tom Brake Attend, Plus Shaker’s Father-In-Law Saeed Siddique, representatives of Reprieve, Actor David Morrissey and Comedian Sara Pascoe Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Discusses Shaker Aamer, Guantánamo and Fast For Shaker on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC2

A screenshot of Andy Worthington appearing with Joanna Gosling on the Victoria Derbyshire show on BBC2 on October 13, 2015, discussing Shaker Aamer and the Fast For Shaker launching on October 15.Yesterday morning, I appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire show on BBC2, to discuss the launch of Fast For Shaker, the new initiative launched by activist Joanne MacInnes and I, the co-directors of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. I’m delighted to report that over 200 people — 188 on the calendar, plus others on the celebrity schedule — have so signed up to Fast For Shaker. The relay fast, with people pledging to fast for 24 hours on a day of their choice — and with a commitment to continue until Shaker is released — begins on Thursday October 15.

A two-minute clip from my interview, with Joanna Gosling, is here, on the Twitter feed for the show.

When I posted it on Facebook, I wrote, “Follow the link and see a two-minute clip of me on Victoria Derbyshire’s show on BBC2 this morning, talking about Shaker Aamer, as the co-founder of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, my hopes that he will be released from Guantánamo within the next two weeks, and our determination to keep pressure on the Obama administration to honour its commitment to release him as soon as the 30-day notification to Congress is up, which we’re doing by encouraging supporters to ‎Fast With Shaker, who is on a hunger strike, for a 24-hour period starting on Thursday.”

The entire show is also on iPlayer for the next month, starting at 36:15 and ending at 43:45. Read the rest of this entry »

How Laurie Anderson Brought Guantánamo to New York

Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve with a giant, real-time projection of his client, former Guantanamo prisoner Mohammed el-Gharani, at 'Habeas Corpus," an exhibition by Laurie Anderson in New York on October 2, 2015.I’ve been very busy lately — mainly with the launch of Fast For Shaker, a new campaign for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo — and didn’t have the time until now to write about a fascinating project by the artist Laurie Anderson, who staged an event, in New York — “Habeas Corpus” — where she beamed in, live, a giant 3D projection of former Guantánamo child prisoner Mohammed el-Gharani.

Mohammed was one of at least 23 juveniles held at Guantánamo, although only three were officially acknowledged. See Al-Jazeera’s important new documentary, Growing up Guantánamo, for more about this — it focuses on Asadullah Rahman, an Afghan who was just ten when he was seized and sent to Guantánamo with two other Afghan boys.

At Guantánamo, where Mohammed was held between 2002 and 2009, he was subjected to torture, as the US denied his true age (14 or just 15 when he was seized) and tried to tie him in to all manner of ridiculous plots — like an invented al-Qaeda cell in London, which he was supposed to have been part of, even though he was only 11 at the time, and had never left Saudi Arabia, where he was born to parents from Chad. I first wrote about him in my book The Guantánamo Files, in 2007, and then wrote a profile of him in April 2008, Guantánamo’s forgotten child: the sad story of Mohammed El-Gharani, covered a judge granting his habeas corpus petition in January 2009, and his release in June 2009, followed by further complications relating to his return to Chad, despite his parents living in Saudi Arabia — see Mohammed speaking to Al-Jazeera here, for example, and this report from an investigator with his lawyers at Reprieve in December 2009, and please, if you have time, read the long interview with him, by the journalist Jérôme Tubiana, which was published in the London Review of Books in December 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

Fast For Shaker: New Campaign Launched – Please Join Celebrities and MPs Fasting in Solidarity with Shaker Aamer, on a Hunger Strike in Guantánamo

Andy Worthington pledging support for the new Fast For Shaker campaign.Since getting the news last weekend that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, has embarked on a hunger strike and fears that he won’t make it out of Guantánamo alive, despite being told on September 25 that he will be freed soon, Joanne MacInnes and I, the co-founders and co-directors of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, have been working like crazy to get a new campaign going.

And with the wonderful support of web designer Tuqire Hussain, we are now delighted to launch Fast For Shaker, a new website and campaign in which we’re asking celebrities, MPs, campaigners and concerned citizens to embark on a hunger strike of their own, for a day — or more, if you wish — in solidarity with Shaker, starting on Thursday October 15, when the campaign is officially launched.

Please Pledge a Fast (and share on Facebook and Twitter after doing so), send in a photo of yourself on the day of your fast, with a poster downloadable here, to join our Supporters Photos, check out the Calendar here, and check out the celebrity list here. Please also read the Fasting Guidelines. 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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