Obama to Release Ten Guantánamo Prisoners Including Shaker Aamer, Says Washington Post

Shaker Aamer's sons outside the Houses of Parliament on March 17, 2015, before a Parliamentary debate about his father's case (Photo: Andy Worthington).The media is suddenly buzzing with the suggestion, first aired in the Washington Post, that all the men approved for release in Guantánamo — 57 out of the 122 men still held — will be freed by the end of the year, and, if Congress proves obstructive, the Obama administration might close the facility before the end of Obama’s presidency by unilaterally moving the remaining prisoners to the US mainland.

Realistically, however, it might be wisest to view these suggestions as the administration stating its best-case scenario.

It is certainly true that the release of prisoners is likely to resume soon, with willingness on the part of the administration, and with the new defense secretary, Ashton Carter, imminently to be presented with a number of cases to sign off on. According to US law, implemented in the last few years, Congress must be notified of intended releases 30 days before they happen, but this is not a process that involves significant roadblocks. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: March for the Homeless Opposite 10 Downing Street, London, April 15, 2015

A photo from the "March for the Homeless" in London on April 15, 2015 (Photo: Andy Worthington).See my photo set on Flickr here!

On March 15, 2015, 22 events took place in the UK, Ireland, the US and Canada to raise awareness of homelessness, under the umbrella heading, “March for the Homeless.” I attended the protest in London, opposite 10 Downing Street, where campaigners had arranged for homeless voters to register for the General Election on May 7, and there was a free food kitchen.

Homelessness has increased by 55% since the Tory-led coalition government came to power, and, of course, has increased specifically because of the introduction of certain disgraceful policies — the benefit cap, which attempted to portray those receiving benefits as the problem, when the real problem is greedy landlords; and the bedroom tax, whereby a cabinet of millionaires, with more rooms than they can count, passed legislation forcing people on benefits living in social housing who are deemed to have a “spare room” to downsize, even though there are few smaller properties to move to, and many people, treated as worthless “units” by the government and kicked out of their homes, have had to be rehoused in the private sector, thereby increasing the overall housing benefit bill.

An article in the Guardian last June stated that, in 2013, “112,070 people declared themselves homeless in England — a 26% increase in four years. At the same time, the number of people sleeping rough in London grew by 75% to a staggering 6,437.” In addition, as the Streets of London website notes, there are also “around 400,000 ‘hidden homeless’ in the UK, living out of sight in hostels, B&Bs, ‘sofa-surfing’ or squatting.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Full Text of the Parliamentary Debate for Shaker Aamer, the Last British Resident in Guantánamo (2/2)

Members of the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group at a meeting in February 2015. From L to R:  MPs Mike Wood, Andrew Mitchell, John McDonnell (chair), Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Slaughter. Between Jeremy and Andy is Imam Suliman Gani, a teacher and broadcaster and a friend of the Aamer family.On March 17, as I have been writing about over the last few days, a long-awaited — and long fought for — Parliamentary debate took place in the main chamber of the House of Commons, with MPs debating 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.”

I was there for the debate, in the public gallery behind bulletproof glass, along with around a hundred other supporters of Shaker Aamer, including representatives of We Stand With Shaker, which I co-founded with the activist Joanne MacInnes last November, and the long-running Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, with whom I have worked for many years.

I wrote a detailed article about the debate here, noting that Tobias Ellwood, a Tory MP and a junior minister in the Foreign Office, who was speaking for the British government, supported the motion, and stated, “I hope I have made it clear that the UK Government are absolutely committed to securing the release of Mr Aamer. Today I would like to underline that commitment and join the House in calling for the US Government to approve the release of Shaker Aamer to the UK.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Full Text of the Parliamentary Debate for Shaker Aamer, the Last British Resident in Guantánamo (1/2)

John McDonnell MP, a tireless campaigner for Shaker Aamer and the chair of the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, at the launch of the We Stand With Shaker campaign outside Parliament on November 24, 2014, with, to his right, Joanne MacInnes and Jeremy Hardy, and, to his left, Peter Tatchell (Photo: Stefano Massimo).On March 17, as regular readers will know, a long-awaited — and long fought for — Parliamentary debate took place in the main chamber of the House of Commons, with MPs debating 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.”

I wrote a detailed article about the debate here, noting that Tobias Ellwood, a Tory MP and a junior minister in the Foreign Office, who was speaking for the British government, supported the motion, and stated, “I hope I have made it clear that the UK Government are absolutely committed to securing the release of Mr Aamer. Today I would like to underline that commitment and join the House in calling for the US Government to approve the release of Shaker Aamer to the UK.”

Below I’m cross-posting the transcript of the debate from Hansard. I’ve divided it into two parts, as it’s quite long, so the first part is below and the second will follow tomorrow.

As I noted in my article yesterday, the transcript contains some stirring speeches about the importance of the law and the perpetually shocking injustice of Shaker’s continued imprisonment from a variety of speakers, including John McDonnell, David Davis, Andrew Mitchell, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Andy Slaughter, Tim Farron, Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas and Gareth Thomas (the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs), with other comments by Kate Hoey, Jim Cunningham, Neil Carmichael, Stephen Timms, Alistair Burt, Ian Murray, David Ward and Dennis Skinner. Others were present, but did not make comments, including Jane Ellison, Shaker’s constituency MP, who is a minister and therefore unable to comment. Read the rest of this entry »

UK Government Backs Parliamentary Motion to Secure Release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo

Shaker Aamer's sons outside the Houses of Parliament on March 17, 2015, before a parliamentary debate about his father's case (Photo: Andy Worthington).Yesterday, March 17, 2015, will, I hope, be remembered as a significant day in the long campaign to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who is still held despite being told by the US government in 2007 and 2009 that they no longer wanted to hold him.

The main focus of the day was a Parliamentary debate for Shaker, in the main chamber of the House of Commons, at which Tobias Ellwood, a Tory MP and a junior minister in the Foreign Office, speaking for 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,” and stated, “I hope I have made it clear that the UK Government are absolutely committed to securing the release of Mr Aamer. Today I would like to underline that commitment and join the House in calling for the US Government to approve the release of Shaker Aamer to the UK.”

The debate was something that campaigners and supportive MPs have been seeking for the last three years, since an e-petition was launched, eventually signed by over 117,000 people in the space of a year, which was supposed to guarantee the debate that finally took place yesterday. Back in 2013, after the e-petition closed, all that took place was a backbench debate in Westminster Hall, which, although worthwhile, was not what the campaign had set out to achieve. See here and here for the transcript of that debate. Read the rest of this entry »

March 17: Come to the Green Card Lobby of MPs Before the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Debate

An image promoting the Parliamentary debate for Shaker Aamer on March 17, 2015.POSTSCRIPT 11 May 2015: At the General Election on 7 May, 13 of the 41 MPs supporting the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group lost their seats. Seven others had announced their retirement as MPs before the election. These changes are noted in brackets after the MPs’ names. Now the election is over, please ask your MPs to join the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, if they have not done so already.

*****

On Sunday, I wrote about the recently convened Parliamentary debate, on Tuesday March 17 at 4.30pm, for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, and asked British readers to write to their MPs (via a letter you can cut and paste, or amend as you see fit) to ask them to take part in the debate, and to join the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, chaired by John McDonnell MP.

I now have updated information. Shaykh Suliman Gani, a friend of Shaker’s family, has secured the support of the family for an important event on the morning of March 17 — the handing-in of Amnesty International’s petition for Shaker (signed by nearly 32,000 people) to 10 Downing Street at 11am. Saeed Siddique, Shaker’s father-in-law, will be there, along with his brother-in-law, and, hopefully, all three of Shaker’s sons as well.

In the late morning, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign will be holding a vigil in Parliament Square, and then, at 12.30, supporters will make their way into the Houses of Parliament for a rally organised by John McDonnell MP in Committee Room 11, with speakers including the journalists Andy Worthington (the co-founder of We Stand With Shaker) and Yvonne Ridley, Joy Hurcombe of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, Aisha Maniar of the London Guantánamo Campaign and the neurologist and human rights campaigner Dr. David Nicholl. Then, at 2pm, there will be a Green Card Lobby in the central lobby of the Houses of Parliament, where constituents will have the opportunity to meet their MPs before the debate and to brief them on Shaker’s case, before the Parliamentary debate at 4.30, to which supporters of Shaker are invited.  Read the rest of this entry »

Please Ask your MP to Support the Parliamentary Debate for Shaker Aamer, Mar 17

An image promoting the Parliamentary debate for Shaker Aamer on March 17, 2015.In the run-up the the General Election in the UK, on 7 May, it is important that MPs recognise the importance of the case of Shaker Aamer, and act upon it — by attending a Parliamentary debate on 17 March, and by joining the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, recently established by John McDonnell MP, as well as other requests listed below in a letter I’m asking you to send to your MP — unless, of course, they are already a member of the group.

Shaker Aamer is the last British resident in Guantánamo, and is still held, despite being approved for release by the US authorities twice — in 2007 under President Bush and again in 2009 under President Obama. The British government has also been requesting his return since August 2007.

His continued imprisonment is therefore inexplicable — unless you recognise that certain forces (probably the security services in the US and the UK) are working to prevent his release not because he is dangerous but because he has always stood up for the rights of the prisoners held lawlessly in the “war on terror,” because he knows some of the dark secrets of the last 13 years of high-level US crimes, and because he has the ability to embarrass the governments on both sides of the Atlantic. Read the rest of this entry »

US Ambassador Snubs 60 Celebrities and MPs Calling for Release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer

"There is no love in Guantanamo": Singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor and her mum, actress/presenter Janet Ellis, hold a Valentine's Day card for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantanamo, to mark the 13th anniversary of his arrival at Guantanamo. Supporters of the We Stand With Shaker campaign have been encouraged to send cards to the US Ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun, asking him to ask President Obama to secure Shaker's release.Campaigners will be at US Embassy at 4pm with a giant Valentine’s Day card for Shaker, signed by over 60 MPs, celebrities and other supporters. UPDATE 1.30pm: Music legend Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd) and Saeed Siddique, Shaker Aamer’s father-in-law, will be attending the protest.

Issued as a press release by the We Stand With Shaker campaign.

In a shocking development, the US Ambassador, Matthew W. Barzun, has refused to meet with British MPs, celebrities and other supporters of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, who were planning to hand in a giant Valentine’s Day card for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, on Friday February 13, the day before the 13th anniversary of Mr. Aamer’s arrival at Guantánamo.

The card reads: “We urge you to ask President Obama to secure the immediate release from Guantánamo of British resident Shaker Aamer. Please tell the president we want Shaker returned to his loved ones in London now.”

Shaker Aamer has twice been approved for release by the US authorities — under President Bush in 2007 and under President Obama in 2009. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Speaks at Parliamentary Meeting Calling for the Release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo, November 25, 2014

The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign's poster for the Parliamentary Meeting for Shaker Aamer, organised by John McDonnell MP on November 25, 2014.Next Tuesday, November 25 — the day after the launch of the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I’m working on with my colleague Jo MacInnes, and support from numerous groups including Reprieve and the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign — I’ll be speaking at a Parliamentary meeting organised by John McDonnell, the indefatigable Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, calling for Shaker Aamer’s immediate release from Guantánamo and his safe return to his family in London. [Click on the image to the left to enlarge it].

Shaker Aamer, 47, is the last British resident in Guantánamo, with a British wife and four British children who live in south London. November 24 is the 13th anniversary of Shaker’s capture by bounty hunters in Afghanistan, where he had travelled with his family to provide humanitarian aid.

The details of the event are as follows, and I should stress that everyone is welcome, although if you do come along please allow plenty of time before the 7pm start to clear the House of Commons security. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Speaks at a Parliamentary Meeting for Shaker Aamer, with John McDonnell, Bruce Kent and Others, June 17, 2014

Please sign the international petition calling for the release of Shaker Aamer.

On Tuesday June 17, I’m delighted to be speaking at a Parliamentary meeting for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, organised by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign and John McDonnell MP. I’ll be joining John, one of a handful of tireless activists in the House of Commons, and other speakers, including Bruce Kent, the journalists Victoria Brittain and Yvonne Ridley, Lindsey German, the chair of the Stop the War Campaign, and US activist Diana Coleman. Jane Ellison, the MP for Shaker’s home constituency of Battersea, where his British wife and four British children live, will provide an update regarding the government’s position, and Joy Hurcombe, the chair of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, will chair the meeting.

The meeting, which runs from 7pm to 9pm, has been given the title, “When will they stop Shaker Aamer’s horrific Guantánamo ordeal?” and it is taking place in Room 12 in the House of Commons. This is a public meeting, and everyone is welcome, although anyone who wishes to attend is advised to arrive by 6.30pm to leave enough time to pass through the security process at St. Stephen’s Gate. For further information, please email the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign or call Ray Silk on 07756 493877. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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