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.
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 »
Located in the Bay Area of California, near San Francisco, Peter B. Collins is a great progressive radio host, and someone I have known for many years. He has interviewed me about Guantánamo numerous times over the years (see here for our interviews from the last three years), and interviews with him are always particularly satisfying — and for listeners, hopefully, very informative — because he is very knowledgeable and because the shows last for an average of an hour, allowing us time to really delve into the multi-faceted injustices of Guantánamo and the “war on terror.”
On this occasion, Peter wanted to speak to me on the back of the news that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, is to be freed after nearly 14 years in US custody without charge or trial, despite the fact that he was approved for release under President Bush in 2007, and under President Obama in 2009, by a high-level, inter-agency review process.
Peter generously acknowledged the role played in this long-overdue development by the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched with the activist Joanne MacInnes last November, which has involved celebrities and MPs standing with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker, and he also promoted my band The Four Fathers and our ‘Song for Shaker Aamer‘, which was used in the We Stand With Shaker campaign video, and which I made available as a download last week — also making available our album ‘Love and War,’ which features the song, as a download or on CD. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, just ten days after the announcement that Shaker Aamer is finally to be freed from Guantánamo and returned to his family, was quite a disturbing day for those of us who care about Shaker and his health, as the Mail on Sunday ran a seven-page feature on Shaker that centered on his lawyer Clive Stafford Smith’s report of his latest words from Guantánamo, via a recent phone call.
Shaker stated, as the Mail on Sunday put it, that “he is on a hunger strike in protest at an assault by guards, who, he says, forced him to give blood samples,” and that he is “still being subjected to brutal physical abuse” by the authorities, and he also expressed his fears that he will not make it out of Guantánamo alive. As he said in his own words: “I know there are people who do not want me ever to see the sun again. It means nothing that they have signed papers, as anything can happen before I get out. So if I die, it will be the full responsibility of the Americans.”
This is rather bleak, and it made those of us who worry about Shaker’s health very unsettled. In my conversations with people yesterday, we also reflected on how the news must have been very disturbing for Shaker’s family. However, it is not all darkness. In another key passage, not picked up by the headline writers, Shaker said, powerfully, in words that illuminate his passion for justice and the tenacity that so many of us have admired over the years, “I do not want to be a hero. I am less than a lot of people who suffered in this place. But all this time I stood for certain principles: for human rights, freedom of speech, and democracy. I cannot give up.” Read the rest of this entry »
In the week since it was announced that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, is to be released, to be returned to his family in the UK, there has been a huge sigh of relief from the many, many people who campaigned for his release — supporters of the long-standing Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, which I have been involved with for many years, attending protests and speaking at events, of We Stand With Shaker, the campaign I established with Joanne MacInnes last November, which drew huge support for photos of celebrities and MPs standing with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker, and supporters of the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, established last November by John McDonnell MP, a persistent supporter of worthy causes and fighter against injustice, who, with Caroline Lucas (our sole Green MP), Jeremy Corbyn and Shaker’s constituency MP, Jane Ellison, has been the most consistent MP supporting Shaker’s cause.
My article celebrating the news of Shaker’s forthcoming release was liked and shared by over 1,500 people on Facebook. Posted on the Close Guantánamo page, it has reached over 21,000 people; on the We Stand With Shaker page it has reached over 11,000 people. Thank you to everyone who has supported the various campaigns to secure Shaker’s release, including the MPs who traveled to Washington D.C. in May to call for his release, meeting with Senators and Obama administration officials — David Davis and Andrew Mitchell of the Conservatives, and Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Slaughter of the Labour Party.
Now, of course, Jeremy is the leader of the Labour Party, and John McDonnell is the shadow chancellor — a wonderful development for those who care about tackling injustice. Jeremy was elected on an anti-austerity platform, and because of his honesty and decency, and all of the above was apparent in his speech as leader to the Labour Party Conference, when he specifically thanked Shaker’s supporters, and in particular the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign: Read the rest of this entry »
On September 25, as the news broke that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, is to be released, the radio host Scott Horton got in touch to ask for a quick interview, and I was, of course, delighted to speak to him, as we have spoken numerous times over the years since he first interviewed me in 2007. Our 15-minute interview is here, as an MP3, and I hope you have time to listen to it, and to share it if you find it useful. You can also find it on Scott’s website here.
Scott asked me to run through Shaker’s story, so I explained how he is a charismatic, eloquent man who always resisted the injustices implemented by the Bush administration in its “war on terror,” and, as a result, came to be regarded as a dangerous individual.
However, although he has persistently caused trouble — righteous, indignant trouble — in US custody, his captors never had a case against him for any activities prior to his capture at the end of 2001 in Afghanistan, where, he has always maintained, he had traveled to provide humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. As a result, in 2007, under the Bush administration, he was told that the US no longer wanted to hold him, and in 2009 he was approved for release by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama shortly after taking office. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve just launched a YouTube channel for my band The Four Fathers. We’re based in Lewisham, in south east London, and we’re four fathers, as the name suggests — myself on lead vocals and guitar, Richard Clare on guitar and backing vocals, Bren Horstead on drums and percussion and Andrew Fifield on flute and harmonica — plus, last but by no means least, Louis Sills-Clare, Richard’s son, on bass.
The first video I’ve uploaded (see below) features myself and Richard Clare playing an acoustic version of ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’, the song I wrote last year that was used in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, the campaign I launched last November with my activist friend Joanne MacInnes, which has just met with considerable success, as it was announced on Friday that Shaker will soon be released, after nearly 14 years in US custody without charge or trial, and over eight years since he was first told that he would be freed.
The version played by the full band is the opening track on The Four Fathers’ debut album, ‘Love and War,’ which we released on CD in July. It’s available here as a download, for 80p ($1.25), although you can pay more if you want, and 25% of the money received will be donated to Shaker’s family. The other songs on the album are also available to download for 60p ($0.93) each, or you can buy the whole eight-track album as a download for £4.50 ($7) or on CD, with two extra tracks, for £7 ($10.85). As with ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’, you can pay more if you wish for any of the songs or for the album, and if you do so that will be very greatly appreciated. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m delighted to receive the news that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba is to be released, although I must admit I’m slightly numb too. I’ve been hoping for this day — and working towards making it happen — for so long that it’s difficult to believe that it’s true.
But it is true. This afternoon, a British government spokesperson announced that the US government has notified them of the intention to release Mr. Aamer back to his family in the UK, and stated that the US government “has notified Congress of this decision and once that notice period has been concluded, Mr. Aamer will be returned to the UK.”
Under US law, the defence secretary, Ashton Carter, must sign off on any prisoner releases, certifying that all steps have been taken to ensure that it is safe to do so, and Congress then receives 30 days’ notice. As a result, Shaker may not be home until late October, but the announcement of his impending release is a clear cause for celebration. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, after I had released ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ by my band The Four Fathers on Bandcamp, I sent out a press release that was picked up on by RT, who invited me to discuss the release of the song, and Shaker’s ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial in Guantánamo, on the evening news.
I was delighted to cycle down to Millbank Tower for the interview, which was not shown last night, but, I hear, was shown in rotation on the news earlier today, although I didn’t see it until I was sent a link to the video that RT made available on YouTube, which I’m posting below.
My thanks to RT for making the interview available, and for their coverage of the story — the We Stand With Shaker banner projected on a huge screen in the studio, the clips from the song, and my interview, in which I was able to express my profound frustration with the fact that he is still held, despite being approved for release under George W. Bush in 2007 and Barack Obama in 2009, despite the UK government calling for his return since 2007, despite the UK government backing a Parliamentary motion calling for his return in March, despite David Cameron raising his case with President Obama this year, and despite the president promising to “prioritize” his case. Read the rest of this entry »
Today, on Bandcamp, I launched ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’, about the last British resident in Guantánamo, as a download, available for just 80p ($1.25) — although you can pay as much as you want for it — with 25% of the money received going to Shaker Aamer’s family.
I wrote ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ last year, and it was used as the song in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, the campaign to free Shaker from Guantánamo, which I launched last November with the activist Joanne MacInnes, and which has secured substantial support, with nearly 100 celebrities and MPs standing with the giant inflatable figure that is at the heart of the campaign.
I recorded ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ with my band The Four Fathers, and it is the opening song on our debut album ‘Love and War.’ The eight-track album is available in its entirety on Bandcamp for £4.50 ($7), or you can buy individual tracks for 60p ($0.93) each, and a CD is also available for £7 ($10.85), which contains two bonus tracks. You can also buy the CD via my website. Read the rest of this entry »
On Saturday, Jeremy Corbyn, a prominent supporter in Parliament of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, was elected, by a landslide, as the leader of the Labour Party, something that was unimaginable just three months ago. Jeremy is a member of the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, and in May he visited Washington D.C. with three of his Parliamentary colleagues, to meet with Senators and representatives of the Obama administration, to try and secure Shaker’s release.
The Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group was established last November by John McDonnell MP, Jeremy’s close friend and colleague on the left of the Party, who, yesterday, was appointed by Jeremy as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Shaker now has two prominent supporters in previously unexpected high-profile positions, and I hope this fact is not lost on the Obama administration, which continues to hold Shaker needlessly. Cleared for release in 2007 (under George W. Bush) and again in 2009 under President Obama, he could be released in a month’s time if the will existed to free him, 30 days being the amount of time that lawmakers in Congress have required the defense secretary to give them before freeing any prisoner.
Other supporters of Shaker in the shadow cabinet are Diane Abbott, the shadow secretary of state for international development, and Ian Murray, the shadow secretary of state for Scotland, and while we wait to see how the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn will raise Shaker’s case (which I’m sure will happen soon), I’m cross-posting below an article about Shaker that was published in the Mail on Sunday, written by Ramzi Kassem, a professor at the City University of New York School of Law, who I have known for many years — and have also spoken with on occasion. Read the rest of this entry »
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker.
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