First Photos Published of Shaker Aamer Since His Release from Guantánamo

10.11.15

Shaker Aamer photographed in London on November 10, 2015 (Photo credit: Eddie Mulholland/The Telegraph).This afternoon, the first photos appeared in the British media of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held at Guantánamo, following his release from the prison on October 30. The photos appear to have been taken by paparazzi near his family home in London — and while I think it’s a pity that those close to Shaker didn’t issue a photo themselves, I’m delighted to see Shaker looking so well, just eleven days after his release.

The photo I’ve posted here was published on the website of the Daily Telegraph, and other photos were on the website of the Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror.

Unfortunately, although the photos show an evidently likeable person, and hint at the indomitable spirit that kept him going throughout his long ordeal in US custody, the text accompanying the photos was not always supportive — and the online comments, of course, are best avoided completely.

So the Telegraph, unfortunately, described how Shaker “was believed to be an al-Qaida recruiter,” and only later in its article added that “in 2007 the allegations against him were dropped and he was cleared for release.” The Telegraph also noted that he “is now expected to receive a £1 million compensation package from the UK taxpayer,” as though any wrongdoing by the UK government, for which compensation is secured, might come from a difference source — ministers’ own pockets, for example.

A similar tone was taken by the Sun, which noted that “he flew home on Friday October 30 aboard a taxpayer-funded private jet” — again, as if there was any other kind of government funding — and stated that “[t]he Americans believed Aamer was an al-Qaeda recruiter with ties to Osama bin Laden,” although they added that he “has always protested his innocence — claiming to have only been carrying out charity work.”

The Mail, which vigorously backed the campaign for his release, was more generous in its coverage, although it was noted, not for the first time, that the flight back to the UK from Guantánamo “is thought to have cost an estimated £70,000.” The Mail also wrote that Shaker “is now believed to be in line for a £1m payout from the government,” adding that this is part of a “compensation deal” that “was agreed in 2010 between the British Government and lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees following legal action.”

The Mail also repeated the description of Shaker in US military files “as a ‘close associate of Osama Bin Laden’, who fought in the battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan,” noting that he “insists he was working for a charity in Afghanistan when he was kidnapped and handed to US forces in 2001,” but unfortunately even the Mail failed to do the research required to demonstrate, as I explained in my article “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Truth, Lies and Distortions in the Coverage of Shaker Aamer, Soon to be Freed from Guantánamo,” that the allegations against Shaker were made by notoriously unreliable witnesses.

The Mirror, meanwhile, described how Shaker spent “14 years locked up in the brutal American prison in Cuba,” and stated that, although the US “believed Aamer was an al-Qaeda recruiter with ties to Osama bin Laden,” they “never charged him with an offence and there was some doubt over his arrest.”

In conclusion, then, although I was very pleased to see Shaker, and in such a natural, normal environment, just walking in the street, I look forward to hearing from him, in his own words, very soon.

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.

71 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted the photo earlier via the Telegraph article, I wrote:

    Here are the first photos of Shaker Aamer since his return – just published in the Daily Telegraph, which said he “was seen smiling as he walked down a London street on Tuesday.” A pity that a newspaper that described him as someone “who was believed to be an al-Qaida recruiter” got to publish the first photos, but how good to see him looking so well! Welcome home, Shaker!

    At the time of writing (five hours later), it has reached over 15,000 people just on the We Stand With Shaker Facebook page.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    앤서방 wrote:

    Of course it’s good to see Shaker looking well but The Torygraph are insensitive to bother a man coming to terms with unimaginable trauma as he takes a walk. And it’s a steaming heap of crap of an article: ‘believed to have been an al-quaieda recruiter’. A scurilous thing to say about an innocent man who has endured one of history’s greatest injustices.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, 앤서방. Very well put.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Eid Cards wrote:

    Alhamdulilah, happy for the family

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Rachida Sobhi wrote:

    Never thought we’d see this day. Welcome home Shaker. Peace and love. RS

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Denise Allgood wrote:

    So pleased to see that he can still smile.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Shariff Boolaky wrote:

    Some of the comments from the original telegraph post are shocking hate filled racism.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Jocelyn Ruddell wrote:

    Glad you are home at last.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Jim Birdsall wrote:

    I’m pleasantly surprised he looks so well.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Saibah Umairah Gull wrote:

    May Allah swt bless this man and grant him & his family the highest rank in Jannatul Firdous. It’s so good to see him smile even after all he’s been through!

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Adrian Jamieson wrote:

    Welcome home!

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Sheena Corbyn Smith wrote:

    Beautiful picture_ I wish him and his family all the best

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Amina Khan wrote:

    Alhamdulillah

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Kieran Devlin wrote:

    This wrong can never be put right, let’s hope it never happens to anyone again.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Eid Cards, Rachida, Denise, Shariff, Jocelyn, Jim, Umm Rahees, Saibah, Adrian, Sheena, Amina and Kieran. Good to hear from you all.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Lorna Watson wrote:

    The comments on the sun are horrific. He has such a kind face.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    He does indeed, Lorna – and the comments on the Sun’s website, like those on the Daily Mail’s website, and the Telegraph, are always horrendous.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Kunle Balogun wrote:

    Welcome home Shaker.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Kunie. Good to hear from you.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Mohammed Shuaib Sheikh wrote:

    I want him to sue all involved in his illegal incarceration.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Mohammed. We’ll have to wait and see what’s going to happen regarding compensation and legal challenges.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Peter Marshall wrote:

    My thoughts exactly on seeing the Telegraph. But The Sun I think beat them to print and make clear he has always protested his innocence.

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Beth Cioffoletti wrote:

    Welcome home Shaker.

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Sarah Kay wrote:

    That line on the compensation package – that was one of the reasons Cameron wanted to scrap the HRA – was completely unnecessary, but it’s the Telegraph.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Grayson wrote:

    May Allah protect him… must be so strange to walk down the street…

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Idrees Amin Shah wrote:

    congratulations andy…
    feeling realy great…u hv done wht i shud hv done..as blvr of Allah and follower of Last and final messenger of islam blessings of ALLAH be upon him..
    pay my greetings and well wishes to my brother..

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Kai Sanburn wrote:

    Such a moving photograph! At long last.
    So grateful for your relentless work, Andy.

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    Pauline Kiernan wrote:

    This must be unimaginably joyful for you, Andy. Your tireless fight for justice never ceases to take my breath away, Thank you, Pauline xxx

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Peter, Beth, Sarah, Carol, Idrees, Kai and Pauline. Good to hear from you all.

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    Shahela Begum wrote:

    🙂

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Hawa Bint Yusuf wrote:

    Alhamdulillah!

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Abu Rayyan Yahya wrote:

    Interesting how they end the article. How the tax payer will pay him compensation. It’s obvious they still want to stir hate

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Shahela, Hawa and Abu Rayyan. Good to hear from you all. As I mentioned, I’m delighted to see Shaker looking so well, but I agree about the unnecessary mention of taxpayers and compensation.

  34. Andy Worthington says...

    Shahela Begum wrote:

    Good to see his face so happy and free. And yeah… it’s the telegraph!

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    Tahira Rahman wrote:

    Taxpayers and compensation would be mentioned if the article was from the daily fail too… Rightwing press..

  36. Andy Worthington says...

    Abu Rayyan Yahya wrote:

    Yes I am so happy that he has his freedom may Allah protect him and his family ameen

  37. Andy Worthington says...

    Saher Qadri wrote:

    Mashallah! I am very happy to read this

  38. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Saher. Good to hear from you.

  39. Andy Worthington says...

    Frazer Mckenzie wrote:

    🙂

  40. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Frazer!

  41. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this article on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my new article showing one of the first photos of Shaker Aamer since his release from ‪‎Guantanamo‬, taken by paparazzi today and published in the Telegraph, Sun, Mail and Mirror. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am delighted to see him looking so well, and also so evidently looking like what he is, a kind man. I also take apart some of the media’s lazy journalism, repeating long-discredited lies from his 2007 military file, released by WikiLeaks in 2011, failing to examine the profoundly unreliable alleged witnesses who made the false claims about him, and mentioning, with intended outrage, taxpayer-funded government compensation, as if there is any other kind.

  42. Andy Worthington says...

    Nicola Mattiagne wrote:

    How lovely, Shaker looks really well, this is wonderful news.

  43. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to hear from you, Nicola. Yes, I think so too!

  44. Andy Worthington says...

    Mary Francis Galloway wrote:

    I am glad you shared.

  45. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Mary. Glad you appreciate it. As I have mentioned, I think those representing him should have preempted the paparazzi, but there you go …

  46. Andy Worthington says...

    Javier Rodriguez wrote:

    Good to see him looking so well, but disappointing as ever that the British media can’t leave him alone to enjoy his new found freedom and are reporting so negatively on him, an innocent man unjustly imprisoned. Pleased you shared, as the photo is now in the public domain and I’d missed it.

  47. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Javier. Good to hear from you. Glad to have alerted you to the photo!

  48. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia R Scott wrote:

    Yes, he looks like a kind man. I’m so happy to see him smiling! Hope he has a great fulfilled life from now on.

  49. Andy Worthington says...

    Dani Taylor wrote:

    Bush, Obama, and all the other warmongering, lying, pieces of pig feces should have to pay up – – out of their own pockets/fortunes.

  50. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Natalia and Dani. And yes, it would be interesting, wouldn’t it, Dani, if instead of taxpayers coughing up for whatever crimes the government commits, they were held personally liable?

  51. Andy Worthington says...

    Deborah Hitz wrote:

    …wishing you well, Shaker Aamer!

  52. Andy Worthington says...

    Asif Javed Gondal wrote:

    Congrats
    Fighters both of you.
    Hats off guys
    Justice prevails and it must prevail.

  53. Andy Worthington says...

    Regina Freitag wrote:

    Good for him! I don’t even want to imagine what the poor man went through by the hands of these evil monsters.

  54. Andy Worthington says...

    Lorna Singh wrote:

    Please ask him to start working on his book soon…..+ interviews etc..

  55. Andy Worthington says...

    Sadaqah Shaam wrote:

    So happy for him and his family

  56. Andy Worthington says...

    Amina Masood Janjua wrote:

    May God bless him in his eventually free life and protect him….

  57. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Deborah, Asif, Regina, Lorna, Sadaqah and Amina. Very good to hear from you all.

  58. Andy Worthington says...

    Amina Masood Janjua wrote:

    It’s hard earned by all of you who campaigned for him day and night…Bravo!!

  59. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Amina, for the kind and supportive words.

  60. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks Andy!

    I was very pleased to read that the UK chartered a plane to fly him home, even if some elements of the UK press see this as a frivolous expense. I remember that Shaker had a very understandable anxiety that some final act of neglect, or mistreatment, might cause his death, on that flight home.

    If the UK had not flown him home, and had relied on US government transport, he would have been shackled, and hooded, for the entire 10-12 hour flight. Even if it didn’t actually kill him, it would have been a final and avoidable hardship and humiliation.

    How much is a charter flight, from Cuba, to the UK? Well, the Stephen Harper government chartered a plane to fly home a Canadian chef who was unlucky enough to have worked for a financier who ran a Ponzi scheme, and was imprisoned by corrupt Mexican justice officials. Mexico to Ottawa is about 40 percent of the distance from Cuba to London, and that flight cost under $40,000. Maybe the Shaker charter cost $100,000.

    Money well spent I’d say.

    Cheers!

  61. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. Great to hear from you – and how nice that we’re marking Shaker’s return finally. Apparently he didn’t want to eat or drink on the way back because he didn’t want to tamper with what was already in his system, which, he hoped, would shed light on how he’d been treated at Guantanamo.
    I’ve heard that the flight cost £70,000, so your estimate is spot-on!

  62. arcticredriver says...

    Khalid el-Masri, the German citizen who was originally a Druze, from Lebanon, who ended up spending five months in a CIA camp in Afghanistan, was able to substantiate his malnourishment through a detailed analysis of his hair.

  63. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s interesting, arcticredriver. I hadn’t come across that particular fact before.

  64. arcticredriver says...

    El Masri’s hair was mentioned in Stephen Grey’s Ghost Plane, and in this Der Spiegel article

    Mamdouh Habib, the other australian, had his torture confirmed by medical experts in torture. When he was released the DoD was still giving the captives their medical files. I don’t know if they still get them, or if they are more “sanitized” than his was. The doctors who specialized in finding the after-effects of torture pointed to his medical records regularly documenting blood in his urine. They called this a frequent after-effect of torture.

  65. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. That’s very diligent. I’m amazed to hear that Mamdouh Habib was given his medical files. I can’t imagine that happening!

  66. Andy Worthington says...

    Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner wrote:

    What a smille!

  67. Andy Worthington says...

    Angela Gipple wrote:

    My wish for him is much love and deep healing.

  68. Andy Worthington says...

    Syed Kadri wrote:

    USA, shame on you!

  69. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Sandrine, Angela and Syed. Great to hear from you all. And yes, Sandrine, what a winning smile!

  70. candace gorman says...

    So glad to see a smiling face after so many years of trauma and hardship.
    Best regards,
    Candace

  71. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, absolutely, Candace. I’m hoping to meet him soon.
    Hope all is well with you.

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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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