Andy Worthington’s TV and Radio Appearances Following the Release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo

3.11.15

A screenshot of Andy Worthington speaking by Skype to Joanna Gosling on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC2 on October 30, 2015, the day Shaker Aamer was finally released from Guantanamo.Following Friday’s sudden news of the arrival back in the UK of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, there was an intense media frenzy, the likes of which I’ve never experienced. For several hours, the phone was ringing off the hook, I was conducting interview after interview — on the phone or by Skype — with Skype calls incoming while I was being interviewed, and the phone ringing incessantly, as I found myself unable to switch it off.

Below is a brief run-through of where my media appearances can be found. Apologies for the delay, but it’s taken me many hours to track everything down, and I simply didn’t have the time – or was, frankly, too exhausted and in need of distraction — to do so until now.

After making a brief statement to the Press Association (as featured in this Independent article), I spoke briefly by phone to Sky News (their coverage is here), and then took part in the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC2. The show has featured Shaker’s story twice in recent weeks. I appeared on it following the launch of Fast For Shaker, the campaign I set up with my colleague Joanne MacInnes as an off-shoot of our We Stand With Shaker campaign, and Shaker’s own words, read out by an actor, were featured in another show shortly after.

Shaker’s release was the lead story, and I was delighted to be given seven minutes to talk to presenter Joanna Gosling, which gave me time to explain, in particular, why people should be extremely wary of what purports to be the evidence used to hold, year after year, men held without charge or trial — a situation that ought to be intolerable to anyone who claims to respect the rule of law.

The show is here, and is available for the next 25 days. My interview runs from 8:40 to 15:40.

I then spoke briefly to London Live, who interviewed me during the launch of Fast For Shaker last month, and was then interviewed on the BBC World Service, for World Update with Dan Damon. The feature on Shaker begins at 48:35 and lasts until 52:40, and I had the opportunity to discuss why Shaker was held for so long — primarily because he was so outspoken — and also, briefly, to discuss the unreliability of the allegations against him.

Around 10am, I spoke briefly to RT, where Joanne MacInnes was also interviewed. RT published a transcript of what I said, which is posted below. I began by responding to a question about how we heard about Shaker’s story from inside Guantánamo:

We managed to hear a lot, partly through his lawyers and partly the statement that he made to the Metropolitan Police a few years ago because they were investigating his claims that British agents were in the room in Afghanistan when he was being abused by the US operatives. So, things have emerged over the years. I think it is clear that Shaker Aamer was treated very brutally when he was first in custody in Afghanistan. As a result of that he made a number of false statements.

And since he’s been in Guantánamo, from the beginning, Shaker has campaigned relentlessly in US custody against the manner in which he and others have been treated. He’s demanded they should be treated according to established rules and regulations regarding prisoners which, of course, they didn’t do after 9/11. And as a result of that he has been treated very badly in Guantánamo; he spent a lot of time in solitary confinement because the US authorities try to isolate prisoners who could have any influence over other prisoners like Shaker Aamer, for example, who is articulate and outspoken.

And he has was also regularly subjected to violence in Guantánamo. Because they have that ‘five man rapid response team’ – heavily armed guys in Guantánamo — and if you infringe the rules in any way they come along and they beat you up. And Shaker has made a point of resisting what he has been told to do in Guantánamo repeatedly on many occasions and as a result he has been subjected to physical violence.

Immediately after this, I spoke to the BBC World Service again, for Outside Source, beginning at 10am. That show is here, and my interview took place at the top of the show, from 1:30 to 4:10. I spoke with Nuala McGovern about the shadowy figures in the intelligence services and/or the military in the US and the UK who were responsible for keeping Shaker detained for so many years after he was first approved for release. I also spoke about how he can embarrass those who held him, but pointed out how it is extremely unlikely that he will have any brand-new revelations that can compare to the details in last year’s Senate Intelligence Committee report into the CIA torture program.

This was followed by an interview on 5 Live, shortly after 11am, on 5 Live Daily with Peter Allen. The section on Shaker starts around eight minutes into the second hour of the show. I spoke to Peter from 01:12 until around 01:16:40, after a brief soundbite from Robin Simcox, from the racist and Islamophobic Henry Jackson Society.

I began by explaining how pleased I was that Shaker is freed, and how he will now have to put his life back together, and I took the opportunity to talk about how those held at Guantánamo, for the most part never charged or tried, have not even been allowed family visits, unlike those convicted of the worst crimes and held in prisons on the US mainland.

Peter spoke about the “shadowy figures” making allegations about Shaker, which was the perfect opportunity for me to briefly explain the fundamental injustices of the “war on terror”: how the US refused to recognise terrorism as a crime, while also refusing to recognize captured soldiers as prisoners of war, to be protected by the Geneva Conventions, and how the majority of the men held at Guantánamo were not captured by US forces on the battlefield, as alleged, but were bought for bounty payments paid to their Afghan and Pakistani allies. I also explained how, on arrival at Guantánamo, the US didn’t know anything about them, and set about obtaining information through the torture and abuse of the prisoners, or through bribery — offering them better living conditions.

I also explained how it took so long to release Shaker because of the fundamental lawlessness of Guantánamo; in other words, that release is only possible through a political process, rather than at the end of a sentence or at the end of hostilities, and how fundamentally unjust that is.

This was a particularly good interview, I thought, and it was followed by another BBC interview, on BBC Radio Scotland, where a soundbite was included in the headlines two hours into Stephen Jardine’s show.

In the afternoon, I cycled to Broadcasting House for another BBC World Service interview, this time on the World Have Your Say programme, which was asking the bigger question of whether Guantánamo will ever close.

The 23-minute section on Guantánamo was presented at the start of the show by Chloe Tilly, and is available here, where, unusually, it can also be downloaded as an MP3.

The show began with an interview from Guantánamo with Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg, who has been covering Guantánamo for far longer than I have, and has sacrificed much of her life to be at the base and in the prison, trying to uncover what she can about the constantly opaque story of Guantánamo. As well as discussing the current situation on the ground at Guantánamo, Carol mentioned Ravil Mingazov, the last Russian prisoner, who is seeking release to the UK, where his son and his ex-wife recently secured asylum.

After Carol’s interview, around nine minutes into the show, I spoke about the run-up to Shaker’s release, and the problem of the 52 other men approved for release but still held — most approved for release since 2009, like Shaker, and whose ongoing imprisonment is, of course, completely unjustifiable.

The show also featured, by phone from New Mexico, Nancy Hollander, the lawyer for Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the Mauritanian prisoner who is still held, despite a judge ordering his release in 2010, and despite being a best-selling, award-winning author, whose book Guantánamo Diary was published at the start of this year. Hollander spent six years wrangling with the US authorities to allow its publication, and spoke about how, sadly, Slahi is becoming increasingly desperate, as his long and unjustifiable imprisonment continues, seemingly without end.

In response to some inflammatory comments from listeners, I reminded the audience of how important it is to uphold the rule of law, charging and trying, in federal courts, anyone accused of terrorism, and holding soldiers as prisoners of war protected by the Geneva Conventions, and also highlighting, as Nancy did, the disgraceful travesty of justice that is the military commission trial system at Guantánamo.

I also got to speak about the need for those held as “forever prisoners” — regarded as “too dangerous to release” even though the authorities acknowledge that there is insufficient evidence that exists to put them on trial — to have reviews of their cases. The Periodic Review Boards, established in 2013, are reviewing their cases, but with glacial slowness, and they need to take place much more swiftly. As I noted, out of 16 reviews concluded to date, 14 men have been approved for release, but the majority of the remaining 60 prisoners are not facing trials — just ten men are — and are, instead, awaiting PRBs.

After the show, which was worthwhile, but could easily have lasted for a whole hour, I made my way to the City, for an interview with Channel 5 News. Unfortunately, my appearance on Channel 5 News, with Emily Dyer of the Henry Jackson Society, is not available online. However, while waiting in the Green Room, I recorded an interview on BBC Radio London’s Drivetime show with Eddie Nestor.

The show is here, and well worth listening to. The section on Shaker began just before 01:07, and ended at 01:16. Eddie spoke first of all to Andy Slaughter MP, the Labour MP for Hammersmith who was one of the four MPs who visited the US to call for Shaker’s release in May, as a member of the All-Party Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group.

Eddie was robustly cynical about right-wing claims about Shaker, aired by Davis Lewin, the deputy director of the Henry Jackson Society — which, as I mentioned above, is a dangerously racist and Islamophobic think-tank. For some fireworks, please do listen to me challenging Davis, in no uncertain terms, regarding his farcical claims that the Henry Jackson Society’s lazy parroting of discredited US claims about Shaker, based on torture and abuse, bear any relation to truth and reality.

That was about it for the day, although I did accept a final invitation from the BBC to appear on 5 Live with Stephen Nolan, where there were even more fireworks, as I responded to the languid distortions about Shaker trotted out by Jonathan Foreman, an Anglo-American journalist and a former lawyer, with rather unmitigated indignation.

The show is here, and, like the Drivetime show, is worth a listen. The section on Shaker begins at 6:18, and ends at 28:15, and includes Shaker’s own testimony, voiced by an actor following an email interview with Victoria Derbyshire in 2013, followed by an interview with Suliman Gani, a teacher and broadcaster, who has been a longtime campaigner for Shaker’s release, and a friend of the family. Jonathan Foreman was next, at about 15 minutes in, and by 17:30 I finally got to speak, puncturing Foreman’s posturing about the legality of the capture of Shaker and most of the other men held at Guantánamo, by pointing out that they should have been subjected to competent tribunals, or battlefield tribunals, under the Geneva Conventions (convened from Vietnam onwards to ascertain whether those not wearing uniforms in wartime were combatants or civilians), which the US military were preparing to do until the Bush administration told them they were not conducting them, and that everyone who ended up in US custody was to be regarded as an illegal enemy combatant, without rights and with no ability to challenge the basis of their detention.

Note: If you’re planning to listen to any of these shows, please note that, like the Victoria Derbyshire Show, all the specific BBC radio shows mentioned above are only available on iPlayer for the next 25 days.

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, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), 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.

19 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    For my latest article I’ve put together all my media appearances from Friday October 30, 2015, which I will, of course, always remember as the day Shaker Aamer arrived home from ‪‎Guantanamo‬. Links here to my interview on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC2, and lots of BBC radio – various shows on the World Service and 5 Live, including a few where I justifiably lost my rag with right-wing propagandists. All the interviews will be on iPlayer for the next 25 days.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Cat Watters wrote:

    Did you get to meet him at the airport Andy?

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    No, just his UK lawyers and his doctor met him, Cat, and he’s being very closely protected right now. Hopefully soon he’ll be meeting supporters.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s the direct link to my interview on the Victoria Derbyshire Show. Shaker is featured in the first 16 minutes of the show, and I’m interviewed from 8:40 onwards: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06jt5pk/victoria-derbyshire-30102015

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Cat Watters wrote:

    He Needs a lot of Recovery

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    He will indeed, Cat. Great to talk just now with you and Debra [on Cat’s show on Awake radio: http://www.awakeradio.us/ ]. It was like the last time we were together was just yesterday, rather than January.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Hamja Ahsan wrote:

    It is basically just Robin Simcox from the Henry Jackson Society spreading it all around

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, Hamja. Simcox, and also Davis Lewin, the deputy director of the HJS, who I was on Drivetime with.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s the BBC Radio London Drivetime feature on Shaker, with presenter Eddie Nestor and Davis Lewin of the racist, Islamophobic Henry Jackson Society , who provoked my fury with his lies and distortions – it starts at 01:07, and ends at 01:16: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03538dr

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Hamja Ahsan wrote:

    why dont you record your 7 minute section and put it online?

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    I would need help. it’s out of my technical comfort zone, Hamja!

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Michael Bentley wrote:

    I look forward to listening, Andy. I really admire you for challenging so fiercely the right wing propagandists, who, basically, are defending a crime against humanity. Even interviewers wind me up sometimes. I remember, years ago, listening to Victoria Derbyshire interview Omar Deghayes, and she was so blatantly sceptical about his insistence that there was no evidence against most of the detainees that he became quite angry – justifiably, I thought. Even if I could argue as well as you, Andy, I would struggle to keep my cool.

    What an exhausting week you and Joanne must be having! I hope you’ll be able to meet the man you’ve done so much to help free, when he is ready. Thank you for continuing to defend Shaker, even now he is free.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Michael. Spot-on. I recall Omar being very upset too – and I’m glad to see how Victoria is much more supportive now.
    I’m not tired anymore, but Friday was genuinely very exhausting emotionally. Bloody right-wingers and the media bending over backwards to accommodate them and their wretched lies.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m glad she’s more supportive now too (I refused to listen to her for ages after her Omar interview!) She’s probably better informed, but also I think the inflatable Shaker, the delegation of MPs to the US, the recent fasts, and all the work done by We Stand for Shaker have had a positive effect on much of public opinion.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I suppose you’re right, Michael. That big smiling inflatable was very friendly, wasn’t it? And even more so with such high-profile support! And also the wonderful MPs and the fasters, as you note.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    After I posted the link to the Stephen Nolan show with Jonathan Foreman, Michael wrote:

    How a former lawyer can defend an absence of law is beyond me…

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Some lawyers are apparently only interested in money, Michael​! Foreman wrote an interesting piece about stopping being a lawyer in the late 90s: http://www.city-journal.org/html/7_1_a2.html
    However, his worrying right-wing credentials include him co-founding Standpoint magazine, which has the wretched Douglas Murray of the Henry Jackson Society as a contributor. I found some copies at my hospital once, and was tempted to bin them. Wikipedia article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standpoint_(magazine)

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    After I posted the link to the Victoria Derbyshire Show on Facebook, Carey Ostrer wrote:

    Good forthright interview, you are pretty fearless, you must be slammed all the time by people taken in by the lies, and the good old xenophobic brigade.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Carey, for the kind and supportive words. I don’t get too much flak, for some reason – I hope because the right-wingers realize I can defend myself!

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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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