Video: After Guantánamo, Shaker Aamer’s 90-Minute BBC Interview with Victoria Derbyshire

Shaker Aamer, in a screenshot from his interview with the BBC, broadcast on December 14, 2015.On Monday, after an exclusive interview with the Mail on Sunday, published the day before (which I wrote about here and here), both the BBC and ITV News ran interviews with Shaker Aamer, who, until October 30, when he was freed, was the last British resident in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

I am delighted to have played a part in securing Shaker’s release through ten years of writing about Guantánamo, and campaigning to get the prison closed, and, for the last eleven months of Shaker’s imprisonment, through the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched with the activist Joanne MacInnes last November.

I have also had the pleasure of meeting Shaker since his release, and was delighted to find that everything I had worked out about him from the reports that have emerged from Guantánamo and from those who know him — his eloquence, his intelligence and his implacable devotion to tackling injustice — was accurate, and this was also evident in his interview with Victoria Derbyshire for her morning show on BBC2, which I’m posting below via YouTube where it has already received over 55,000 views.

Note: Please be aware there are a few glitches in the video, where the sound and images are lost for a few seconds and there is only disturbing white noise. Read the rest of this entry »

Shaker Aamer Discusses His 13 Years in Guantánamo, Built to “Destroy Human Beings,” and Adjusting to Freedom Since His Release

Shaker Aamer photographed by Craig Hibbert for the Mail on Sunday, December 8, 2015.The Mail on Sunday yesterday featured the first interview conducted by Shaker Aamer since his release from Guantánamo six weeks ago, and below, following my first article yesterday, are excerpts dealing with his 13 years and eight months in Guantánamo — over 5,000 days — and his adjustment to life since his release: the changes in the world, and, in particular, getting to know his family again after so long separated from them. Also included are great anecdotes about Shaker helping someone in a wheelchair — a rather typical act, I believe, for someone renowned for wanting to help others — and what happened when he tried to open a bank account. As the co-founder of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, established just over a year ago to call for his release, it is reassuring to me that he has now undertaken major media interviews — including with ITV News and with The Victoria Derbyshire Show on BBC2, broadcast today — and that he will, hopefully, soon be free to devote more of his time to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo. If viewers outside the UK have difficulty accessing the broadcasts, there are clips from the BBC interview on Twitter here, here and here.

Please also feel free to listen to me on BBC Radio London this morning. The section on Shaker began at At 01:06:27, and my interview started at 01:08:26 and finished at 01:15:10. A good interview, I thought. Please have a listen, and share it if you agree. And please also free to check out my interview with Wandsworth Radio, recorded in the evening.

Shaker Aamer speaks about Guantánamo

Remembering brutality in Guantánamo, and recalling, in particular, the approach of the Forcible Cell Extraction team, six armored soldiers, empowered to suppress, with violence, any perceived infringement of the rules, Shaker told David Rose, “You feel scared.” In Shaker’s case, FCE visits to his cell were shockingly regular, and as he said, “You know you can get hurt, because there are some huge guys there, 18, 20 stone guys, muscular. You could be paralyzed. Anything can happen. Anything.” Read the rest of this entry »

Shaker Aamer Speaks: First Newspaper Interview Since Release from Guantánamo, in the Mail on Sunday

A photo that Shaker Aamer made available to the We Stand With Shaker campaign to thanks all his supporters who worked so hard to secure his release from Guantanamo.The Mail on Sunday today featured the first interview conducted by Shaker Aamer since his release from Guantánamo six weeks ago, and below are excerpts dealing with his life from 1989 to February 2002, when he arrived at Guantánamo, providing information not previously discussed — in particular, about the circumstances of his visit to Afghanistan and his capture. As someone who campaigned for many years for his release — including in the last year with the We Stand With Shaker campaign I co-founded last November — it is wonderful to hear from him.

Speaking to David Rose, Shaker spoke about his experiences in the US after he left Saudi Arabia, where he was born in 1966, in Medina. From 1989 to 1995, he explained, as Rose noted, that he “lived mostly in Atlanta, in the US state of Georgia, working as a chef in restaurants. In those days he lived a Westernised life: a lover of rock music, he often attended concerts by his favourite bands — including AC/DC and Ozzy Osbourne. In this period, in 1990, he responded to a US army recruitment drive for Arabic/English translators during the first Gulf War — which is how he came to find himself working for the US infantry in Saudi.”

“First I was in the south, then at a base in Tabuk, near the Jordanian border,” Shaker said, explaining that he needed security clearance for the job. “Of course I had to be checked. I was right inside the US base. I got to know those guys very well, especially the colonel — his name was Johansen. Later, I used to tell my interrogators: call Colonel Johansen, he will tell you I’m not a terrorist, that I’m a good guy, and that I’m telling you the truth. I’m sure they never did.” Read the rest of this entry »

We Stand With Shaker’s 1st Anniversary, 100 Celebrity Photos and a Vigil on Thursday

The launch of the We Stand With Shaker campaign outside the Houses of Parliament on November 24, 2014, featuring, from L to R: Roger Waters, Clive Stafford Smith, Andy Worthington, Joanne MacInnes and Caroline Lucas.Today (November 24) is the 1st anniversary of the launch of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, created by myself and the activist Joanne MacInnes to call for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who was finally freed — after unprecedented pressure on the US government by MPs, the media and campaigners — on October 30.

The inflatable figure proved to be one of those campaigning tools that captured people’s imagination, and our launch a year ago — attended by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve, comedian Jeremy Hardy, activist Peter Tatchell and the MPs John McDonnell (Labour, Hayes and Harlington, and now the Shadow Chancellor) and Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton Pavilion) — was swiftly followed by high-level support from the Daily Mail, which ran a front-page story condemning Shaker’s ongoing imprisonment, seven years after he was first approved for release by the US authorities, and then followed up with support for the campaign, publishing our open letter to David Cameron, which MPs and our celebrity supporters signed in significant numbers.

The campaign — and the ongoing campaigning of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, as well as the political pressure that began to be exerted when, at the same time that We Stand With Shaker was launched, John McDonnell set up the All-Party Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group — led to David Cameron raising the issue of Shaker’s ongoing imprisonment with Barack Obama at a meeting in January (when the president promised to “prioritise” his case), and, in March, led to a Parliamentary debate at which the British government supported the motion, “That this House calls on the US Government to release Shaker Aamer from his imprisonment in Guantánamo Bay and to allow him to return to his family in the UK.” Read the transcript here and here. Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Andy Worthington and Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait Discuss Shaker Aamer and Closing Guantánamo with Cat Watters

Cat Watters, activist and broadcaster, and Debra Sweet of the World Can't Wait with blogger the Talking Dog and Todd Pierce, former military defense attorney in the military commissions at Guantanamo, outside the White House on January 11, 2015, the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison (Photo: Andy Worthington).Below is an interview I undertook with the New York-based activist Cat Watters, on her show Organic News, on Awake Radio, which took place just after the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who was released and returned to the UK on October 30. Also on the show was my friend Debra Sweet, of the World Can’t Wait, who, every January, gets me over to the US for tours calling for the closure of Guantánamo, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the prison’s opening (see my last three visits here, here and here).

The main topic of discussion  of course, was Shaker’s release after a long, long campaign to secure his freedom, in which I played a part through the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched a year ago with the activist Joanne MacInnes.

Debra also spoke — about the prison-wide hunger strike in 2013 that did so much to remind the world of the prisoners’ plight, in which, of course, Shaker played a part, as I explained at the time — see here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses Shaker Aamer’s Release and the Future of Guantánamo with Scott Horton and Peter B. Collins

Andy Worthington on the radio: in this instance, speaking to Bill Newman, a civil rights and criminal defense attorney and the director of the Western Massachusetts office of the ACLU, who hosts a weekday radio talk show on WHMP in Northampton, Massachusetts. Photo taken on January 14, 2015, during Andy's US tour.In the wake of the wonderful news that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, has finally been released from the prison, and returned, a free man, to his family in the UK, a couple of old friends from the US — Scott Horton and Peter B. Collins — interviewed me for their radio shows.

Scott and I have been talking — generally several times a year —  since 2007, primarily about Guantánamo, but also about torture, Bagram prison in Afghanistan, and other aspects of the “war on terror” that George W. Bush launched after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and that President Obama has failed to fully repudiate.

Our 20-minute interview is here, as an MP3. Scott’s own website has been having problems for the last week — it was down for many days, and now it’s back up, but the last few years’ interviews are still missing. Read the rest of this entry »

A Photo and a Message from Shaker Aamer to His Supporters

A photo that Shaker Aamer made available to the We Stand With Shaker campaign to thanks all his supporters who worked so hard to secure his release from Guantanamo.So the following message and the accompanying photo here — made available by Shaker Aamer, who, until October 30, was the last British resident in Guantánamo — really need no additional explanation, except to say that Shaker made them available to Joanne MacInnes and I, as the co-directors of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, specifically so that he could thank everyone who worked so hard for his release. Thanking everyone is something that has been weighing on his mind as he recovers from his long ordeal, and begins to get used to his freedom. We wish him all the best, and are glad to see him looking so well, and so evidently full of spirit and kindness.

Shaker Aamer’s message to all his supporters

Hi Joanne and Andy,

Please send this message below to all of those who campaigned with We Stand With Shaker, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, those who fasted for me, MPs, and everyone else you know who has fought for my release.

I can’t tell you how much I want to speak to all of you and stand with all of you, carrying on the struggle for justice for everybody who has been oppressed and needs our help. If there is one thing we can do to save the whole world it is to fight for justice. We will work hard together to close Guantánamo and every unlawful facility run by any government worldwide. Justice has no colour or religion or race. Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses the Release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo with Richie Allen

A screenshot of Richie Allen's video for his interview with Andy Worthington on November 5, 2015.It’s ten days since Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, was released and brought back to the UK to be reunited with his family, and after an immediate media whirlwind everything went very quiet, with a few noble exceptions — Richie Allen, the Manchester-based Irish broadcaster, Scott Horton, the US libertarian, and Peter B. Collins, the West Coast progressive radio host, who all got in touch and asked for interviews.

I’ve known all three for some time, and tonight I’m promoting my interview with Richie — it’s on YouTube via David Icke’s website, and you can also find it here on Podomatic. The other two shows aren’t available right now — Scott’s website has been down for a few days, and my interview with Peter, for Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frogs website, hasn’t been uploaded yet.

In a 30-minute interview, I spoke to Richie about Shaker’s release, and attempted to answer questions about how his health might be — a question that I couldn’t really answer, as those close to him are keeping very quiet right now, and allowing him to recover in peace. Read the rest of this entry »

Chef Held at Guantánamo Calls Shaker Aamer a “Beautiful, Great Man” But Warns of Difficulties Adapting to Freedom

Ahmed Errachidi on a poster at a protest in Birmingham in September 2005, outside Hiatt's, the manufacturers of the shackles used in Guantanamo (photo via Indymedia).The Guardian, yesterday, featured former Guantánamo prisoner Ahmed Errachidi speaking of his admiration for Shaker Aamer, the British resident released from the prison on October 30, but warning that it will be difficult for him to adapt to his freedom after nearly 14 years in US custody.

A Moroccan national and a chef, Errachidi, 49, had lived and worked in London for 18 years before he travelled to Pakistan and then Afghanistan in late 2001 in what appears to have been an ill-conceived combination of a business trip and a desire to aid the Afghan people. Seized and taken to Guantánamo, he was initially regarded as a significant prisoner. As Ben Quinn explained in an article for the Guardian, “he earned the nickname ‘The General’ by guards, after he was cast as the unofficial leader of more than 700 detainees — organising protests that included hunger strikes, a role he says occurred largely because he was one of the few English speakers.”

Oddly, Quinn failed to mention that Errachidi was bipolar, and suffered psychotic episodes at Guantánamo, sometimes during interrogations, and that it wasn’t until he was assigned Clive Stafford Smith as a lawyer that a claim that he was in a training camp was debunked, when Stafford Smith was able to secure the wage slips from a restaurant in Bond Street where Errachidi was actually working at the time. That was the key evidence that paved the way for his release in April 2007. Quinn also neglected to mention that, in 2013, his memoir, The General: The Ordinary Man Who Challenged Guantánamo, was published by Random House. Read the rest of this entry »

Responses to Shaker Aamer’s Release from Guantánamo – from MPs, and a Poignant and Powerful Article by Cori Crider of Reprieve

A birthday card is delivered to 10 Downing Street for Shaker Aamer's birthday on December 21, 2014, by MPs and other supporters. From L to R: Andy Worthington, the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Andy Slaughter MP, Peter Tatchell, Caroline Lucas MP, John McDonnell MP and John Leech MP (Photo: Stefano Massimo).Since Shaker Aamer returned to the UK from Guantánamo last Friday, much has been written — most of it, I’m glad to say, positive about a man so evidently wronged; held for nearly 14 years without charge or trial, and approved for release twice, under George W. Bush in 2007, and Barack Obama in 2009.

When Shaker returned — in part, I’m prepared to accept, because of the We Stand With Shaker campaign I conceived and ran with Joanne MacInnes — I wrote an article that was widely liked and shared and commented on, publicized the gracious comment Shaker made on his return, posted a photo of myself holding a “Welcome Home Shaker” card that reached over 20,000 people, and made a number of TV and radio appearances during a brief media frenzy that coincided with the long-overdue news of Shaker’s release.

It was so busy that I haven’t had time to thank the supporters who made such a big difference — John McDonnell MP, the Shadow Chancellor, who set up the All-Party Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group and was its co-chair, the Conservative MP David Davis, the other co-chair, and his colleague Andrew Mitchell, Jeremy Corbyn (now the Leader of the Labour Party), and Andy Slaughter (the Labour MP for Hammersmith), who, with David Davis, visited Washington D.C. in May to call for Shaker’s release. Also noteworthy for her contribution over many years is Caroline Lucas, our sole Green MP. 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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