Archive for February, 2016

Photos: Stop Trident National Demo, Trafalgar Square, London, Feb. 27, 2016

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the Stop Trident rally in Trafalgar Square on February 27, 2016 (Photo: Andy Worthington).See my photos on Flickr here!

Yesterday, February 27, 2016, I cycled into central London to show my support for what turned out to be the largest anti-nuclear protest for a generation, organised by CND (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). Tens of thousands of people from across the UK marched from Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square to call for the British government not to renew the Trident nuclear submarine and missile programme, which, it is estimated, will cost £100 billion over 25 years.

As a lifelong opponent of nuclear weapons, I find it mind-boggling that the Tories — and large parts of the Labour Party — want to renew this ruinously expensive programme when we are supposed to be committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which calls for disarmament as well as non-proliferation, and when we can clearly ill-afford it, as the Tories’ “age of austerity” continues to wither and destroy the very notion of the state as something that should provide a safety net for everyone, without which we seem to be committed only to an ever-increasing gulf between the rich and the poor.

MPs are expected to vote on the renewal of Trident at some point this year, and unfortunately the Parliamentary Labour Party is not entirely united behind Jeremy Corbyn, who spoke at the rally, and who has been a lifelong member of CND. See my article from last summer — and my photos — of Jeremy at CND’s Hiroshima Day 70th Anniversary Ceremony in Tavistock Square for a further show of his commitment to peace. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo Reviews: US Accepts that Former “Black Site” Prisoner, Like Five Others, Wasn’t Part of Al-Qaeda Plot, As Another Prisoner is Approved for Release

Majid Ahmed (aka Majid Ahmad), in a photo included in the classified military files from Guantanamo that were released by WikiLeaks in 2011.As the countdown to the end of the Obama presidency continues (see the Countdown to Close Guantánamo we launched last month), and with just 329 days left for President Obama to fulfill the promise to close the prison that he made on his second day in office back in January 2009, we are reassured that progress continues in the Periodic Review Boards set up in 2013 to review the cases of all the prisoners not already approved for release and not facing trials — currently 46 of the 91 men still held, as one man has been approved for release, and another, seeking release, has had the military acknowledge that they exaggerated his role, and that he was “a low-level militant not part of an al-Qaida terrorist cell as previously believed,” as the Associated Press described it. Moreover, by extension, the same admission should apply to five other men seized at the same time as him, who are also still held and awaiting PRBs.

Just ten of the 91 men still held are facing trials, and of the 35 men already approved for release, eleven have been approved for release by PRBs, to add to seven others already freed after being approved for release.

In total, of the 21 decisions reached by the PRBs, 18 have led to recommendations that the men in question should be released — a success rate of 86%, which reveals the extent to which dangerous hyperbole has played such a significant part in the story of Guantánamo, as these are men regarded six years ago as “too dangerous to release” by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office, even though the task force also conceded that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial. Read the rest of this entry »

Time’s Running Out: My Analysis of the Guantánamo Closure Plan Delivered to Congress by President Obama

Campaigners with Witness Against Torture call for the closure of Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2016, the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison (Photo: Andy Worthington).I wrote the following article — as “President Obama Delivers Guantánamo Closure Plan to Congress; Will It Work?” — for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the 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. For further commentary on President Obama’s plan, listen to me on The Monocle Daily, and also check out my interview on Sputnik.

Yesterday (February 23, 2016), President Obama delivered a long-awaited plan to Congress, prepared by the Department of Defense, laying out in detail how he proposes, with the help of lawmakers, to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay — where 91 men are still held — before he leaves office.

As explained in a White House briefing that accompanied the plan, the four main points of the plan are as follows, and our comments are below each point.

1. “We’ll continue to securely and responsibly transfer to other countries the 35 detainees already approved for transfer. This process involves extensive and careful coordination across our federal government to ensure that our national security interests are met when an individual is transferred to another country. We insist, for example, that foreign countries institute strong security measures.” Read the rest of this entry »

Former Guantánamo Prisoner Younous Chekkouri’s First Interview Since Being Released from Prison in Morocco

Former Guantanamo prisoner Younous Chekkouri points at the Atlantic Ocean during an interview with the Associated Press (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar).Finally freed from prison in Morocco on February 11, 149 days after he was released from Guantánamo, Younous Chekkouri (aka Younus Chekhouri) spoke to the Associated Press last week on the terrace of a cafe in his hometown, Safi, with his younger brother Ridouane, who was freed from Guantánamo in 2004.

I have been covering Younous’s story for many years, as I recognized in my research for my book The Guantánamo Files, published in 2007, that he strenuously denied having had anything to do with Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda, whose philosophy he despised, and in the years that followed nothing deterred me from this opinion, as I found out that Younous was one of the best-behaved prisoners in Guantánamo, and was also a Sufi Muslim, “whose form of religion,” as the AP described it, accurately, “is viewed with suspicion by extremist groups like IS and al-Qaida.” See my archive of articles about Younous here and here.

In its interview last week, the AP noted that, according to unclassified US military documents provided by Younous’s lawyers at the London-based legal organization Reprieve, and submitted to the US authorities as part of Younous’ habeas corpus proceedings, “he suffered serious abuse at the hands of the United States, in detention in Afghanistan,” part of which “involved threats made against his younger brother, Ridouane.” Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: Close Guantánamo with Roger Waters and Justice for Tamir Rice with Witness Against Torture

Campaigners with Witness Against Torture, and The Peace Poets, from the Bronx, call for justice for Tamir Rice, the 12-year old black boy killed by police in Ohio in November 2014. No one has been held accountable for Tamir's death. (Photo: Andy Worthington).

See my photos on Flickr here!

I’ve recently posted two sets of photos from my US visit last month to call for the closure of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, which, shamefully, is still open, despite President Obama’s promise to close it within a year on his second day on office in January 2009. The visit, as with my January visits every year since 2011, was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, where 91 men are still held, almost all without charge or trial, in defiance of the values the US claims to uphold.

The two photo sets I have previously posted were of my first ever visit to Florida — a lightning visit to attend a protest outside the gates of the headquarters of US Southern Command — and the annual protest outside the White House on January 11, the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, involving groups including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture and the World Can’t Wait. My thanks to Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait for organizing my trip, as she has every January since 2011.

I was representing two other groups I co-founded, Close Guantánamo, the campaign and website I set up four years ago with the US attorney Tom Wilner, and We Stand With Shaker, the campaign to free Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, which played a part in securing Shaker’s release in October. To celebrate, I brought the giant inflatable figure of Shaker that was at the heart of the campaign to the US for the very first time. Read the rest of this entry »

The Struggle to Close Guantánamo and to Free Shaker Aamer: A Talk by Andy Worthington at Exeter University Amnesty International Society, Feb. 25

Exeter University student Ellen Boivin promoting Andy Worthington's talk about Guantanamo and Shaker Aamer on February 25, 2016.It’s something of a rarity these days for me to be asked to speak about Guantánamo to students in the UK, so I’m delighted to be going to Exeter University next Thursday (Feb. 25) to talk to the Amnesty International Student Society about my work on Guantánamo and the campaigns to get the prison closed — Close Guantánamo and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo (also see here) — and, in 2014-15, to secure the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, via the We Stand With Shaker campaign, which involved persuading celebrities and MPs to stand with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer.

My talk is entitled, ‘The Struggle to Close Guantánamo and to Free Shaker Aamer,’ the Facebook page is here, and it’s a free event, open to the public, so if you’re at the university, or in the Exeter area and can come along, I’ll see you there. It’s a 6.30pm start, and the address is: the Amory Moot Room, Amory Building, Streatham Campus, home to the university’s law school. A map is here, on which the Amory Building is no. 29.

Please also note that if you’re at any other university and want me to talk about Guantánamo, I am generally available to do so — get in touch. If you’re in London or within striking distance of London, we can also combine a talk with a gig with my band The Four Fathers, playing politically-charged roots reggae and rock, with songs about Guantánamo (including ‘Song for Shaker Aamer‘, featured in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker), torture (‘81 Million Dollars‘, about the US torture program), and the Tories’ cynical and brutal ‘age of austerity‘ here in the UK, and the need for an economic revolution based on socialism and environmentalism (check out our album ‘Love and War’ here). The combination of a talk and live music is something we did with great success just before Christmas at Deptford Cinema — see the videos below: Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: “Close Guantánamo” Protest Outside the White House, Jan. 11, 2016

The giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer outside the White House on January 11, 2016, the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison. I had brought it to the US after the role it played in the We Stand With Shaker campaign I set up in November 2014 with the activist Joanne MacInnes, helping to secure the release from Guantanamo, in October, of Shaker, the last British resident in the prison (Photo: Andy Worthington).See my photos on Flickr here!

On January 11, 2016, I was outside the White House, as I have been on January 11 every year since 2011, calling for the closure of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. I was representing Close Guantánamo, the campaign and website I set up four years ago with the US attorney Tom Wilner, as part of an annual protest organized by numerous rights groups, including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture and the World Can’t Wait.

My thanks to Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait for organizing my trip, which began with a brief visit — for the first time — to Florida (see my article here, and photos here), and then an early morning flight to Washington, D.C. to meet up with old friends from Witness Against Torture, who were staying, as usual, in a church where they were fasting and protesting on a daily basis, and to take part in a number of events — one on the evening of January 10, at which I spoke about We Stand With Shaker, the campaign to free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo, and sang my “Song for Shaker Aamer” (see the video here); the main protest on January 11, the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison, outside the White House; and a couple of protests on January 12 that I’ll make photos available of soon. In the meantime, I hope you have time to check out my January 11 photo set, and to share the photos if you like them.

You can also check out the video of the speech I made outside the White House, and see Witness Against Torture’s collection of videos here. Read the rest of this entry »

Obama Plans to Move 24 Guantánamo Prisoners to US Mainland, Send A Dozen for Trials in Other Countries

Campaigners in Florida call for the closure of Guantanamo outside the gates of US Southern Command, January 9, 2016 (Photo: Andy Worthington).I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the 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.

As the Countdown to Close Guantánamo continues, with over 150 people now having submitted photos of themselves holding posters telling President Obama how many days he has left to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay (see the photos here and here), Ben Fox of the Associated Press has provided an informative update about how the Obama administration plans to close the prison before President Obama leaves office.

With just 91 men left at Guantánamo, we have been calling for the 34 men currently approved for release to be released as soon as possible, for arrangements to be made for the men facing (or having faced) trials (just ten of those still held) to be moved to the US mainland, and for reviews to take place as swiftly as possible for the 47 other men, who are all eligible for Periodic Review Boards.

A high-level, inter-agency review process, the PRBs were set up in 2013 to ascertain whether to release or continue holding 46 men previously regarded as “too dangerous to release” (despite a lack of evidence against them) and 25 others recommended for prosecution in military commissions until the courts struck down the charges in most of the trials because they had been invented by Congress. Read the rest of this entry »

Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Younous Chekkouri Finally Freed in Morocco After 149 Days’ Imprisonment; Thanks Supporters

Guantanamo prisoner Younous Chekkouri (aka Younus Chekhouri), repatriated to Morocco on September 16, 2015 but then imprisoned for 149 days by the Moroccan government (Photo collage by Reprieve).Great news from the legal organization Reprieve, whose lawyers represent men held at Guantánamo Bay, as one of their clients, Younous Chekkouri (aka Younus Chekhouri), has finally been freed to be reunited with his family, 149 days after he was flown home to Morocco from Guantánamo. Younous was imprisoned on his arrival, despite assurances, made to the US by the Moroccan government, that he would be held no more than 72 hours, and it has taken until now for him to finally be granted the freedom that has eluded him since he was first seized in Afghanistan over 14 years ago.

Six years before his release, Younous was approved for release by President Obama’s high-level inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and in 2010, during habeas corpus proceedings, the US government admitted, as Reprieve described it this evening in a press release, that “their central allegation against him — believed to be the reason for his detention in Morocco — was based on unreliable information extracted primarily through torture.” That information related to his alleged membership in a terrorist organisation, a claim that, it is clear, was absolutely groundless. In October last year, while Younous was imprisoned in Morocco, the US Department of Justice “released a letter publicly conceding this point,” as Reprieve put it, and as I also discussed in an article at the time, Guantánamo’s Tainted Evidence: US Government Publicly Concedes Its Case Against Ex-Prisoner Facing Trial in Morocco Collapsed in 2011.

My other articles following Younous’s release from Guantánamo, discussing his disgraceful imprisonment in Morocco, were Fears for Guantánamo Prisoner Released in Morocco But Held Incommunicado in a Secret Location (immediately after his release), Former Guantánamo Prisoner Betrayed by Morocco: Are Diplomatic Assurances Worthless? (in October), Moroccan Released from Guantánamo Facing Kangaroo Court Trial Back Home As Wife Says She Is “Still Living a Nightmare” (in November), and, last month, Former Guantánamo Prisoner Younous Chekkouri Illegally Imprisoned in Morocco; As Murat Kurnaz Calls for His Release, Please Ask John Kerry to Act, in which, as noted in the title, I helped promote an email campaign launched by Reprieve, asking the US Secretary of State John Kerry to keep up the pressure on the Moroccan government. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: Close Guantánamo Protest in Florida, Part of Andy Worthington’s US Tour, Jan. 9, 2016

Andy Worthington addresses the crowd at a protest outside US Southern Command headquarters in Florida on january 9, 2016 (Photo: Medea Benjamin for Andy Worthington).

See my photos on Flickr here!

On January 9, 2016, at the start of my latest short US tour, I was in Florida, on behalf of two groups I co-founded, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker, for a protest outside the headquarters of Southcom — US Southern Command — which oversees the prison at Guantánamo Bay. This was my sixth US visit on and around January 11, the anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo — and my thanks again to Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait for organizing it.

The event on January 9 was put together by an enthusiastic group of young people campaigning as POWIR (People’s Opposition to War, Imperialism, and Racism), and I met the main organizers on the night of my arrival from London, January 8, at the apartment of two of them, Cassia and Conor, where the group were preparing banners and placards.

The headquarters of US Southern Command (Southcom), which oversees Guantánamo, is in Doral, just outside Miami, and we met at a busy intersection at 2pm, and then walked to the gates of Southcom’s HQ. Outside the gates, I was one of the speakers calling for the closure of Guantánamo, along with Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, who had come down from Washington, D.C. with fellow activist Tighe Barry, and afterwards a few dozen of us went for Tex-Mex food, which not only gave me a great opportunity to socialize, but also enabled me to soak up some of the lovely Florida heat that would be lost to me, very early the morning after, as I flew to Washington, D.C. 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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