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 »
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.
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 »
On Saturday (October 24), campaigners for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, held a vigil on Whitehall, opposite 10 Downing Street, to mark Shaker’s 5000th day in Guantánamo, and the last day before his anticipated return from Guantánamo. The vigil was organised by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, with support from other groups including We Stand With Shaker and the London Guantánamo Campaign.
President Obama announced Shaker’s release on September 25, and Congress was then given a 30-day notification period, as required in US law in recent years. During the 30 days, Shaker told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve, that he had embarked on a hunger strike because of ill-treatment, and that he feared not making it out of Guantánamo alive, and as a result, myself and Joanne MacInnes, the founders and directors of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, set up Fast For Shaker, to encourage supporters to fast for 24 hours, on a day of their choice, in solidarity with Shaker, to encourage him to give up his hunger strike (which he did), and to keep up the pressure on the US and UK governments to make sure his release is not further delayed. We are encouraging people to sign up to fast until Shaker is released, joining the 406 people who have already done so.
After hearing that Shaker’s release has been delayed because of a visit to the prison by three Republican Senators over the weekend, we now hear that he may not be released until Friday, because of the presence of journalists for pre-hearings in the proposed trial of those accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s a big day today — 5000 days since Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, arrived at the prison from Afghanistan, where he had already been held for two or three months in appalling conditions. If all is well, Shaker will not stay much beyond his 5000th day, as today is also the day that the statutory notification period required by Congress before they will allow President Obama to release anyone from Guantánamo expires — and a month ago the president told David Cameron that Shaker would be freed.
5000 days would be a long sentence if Shaker had committed any kind of crime, but in fact he has never been charged or tried by the US, and he was first told eight years ago, under President Bush, that the US no longer wanted to hold him, and was told the same thing almost six years ago, under President Obama, as a result of the recommendations of the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that Obama set up shortly after taking office in January 2009.
His imprisonment for all these years is an indictment of the fundamental lawlessness of Guantánamo. Because Shaker is an eloquent, charismatic and irrepressibly outspoken critic of the US’s post-9/11 lawlessness and cruelty, he was, first of all, subjected to discussions about whether he could be sent back to the country of his birth, Saudi Arabia, where he would have been silenced, rather than to the UK, where he was granted indefinite leave to remain, and where he has a British wife and four British children. Read the rest of this entry »
Today, October 20, marks five days to the anticipated release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. It was announced on September 25 that he would be coming back to his family in the UK — eight long years after he was first told that the US no longer wanted to hold him — and that announcement coincided with the start of the 30-day notification period required by Congress before a prisoner can be freed. As a result, campaigners expect him to be home on Sunday.
With Guantánamo, however, nothing is certain until it has happened, and as a result, last week, myself and Joanne MacInnes — the co-founders and co-directors of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, launched last November to publicise Shaker’s plight through the use of a large inflatable figure of him — set up a new campaign, Fast For Shaker, encouraging supporters to fast for a day in solidarity with Shaker (who is on a hunger strike in Guantánamo), and also to keep up pressure on the Obama administration to make sure he is freed as soon as the 30-day notification period is over. That campaign continues, with, to date, 283 people having pledged to fast — and 33 of those are fasting today.
Also today, in a further initiative to keep the pressure on, the We Stand With Shaker campaign is counting down to the date when Shaker should be a free man with the first in a series of countdown posters. Today’s poster, ‘5 Days to Go’, is held by Malila Durant, the 11-year old daughter of Joanne MacInnes. Tomorrow, the actress Harriet Walter and the actor Guy Paul will be holding signs, and this initiative will continue until Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m in a hurry, so please see below for the press release for tomorrow’s launch, in London, of We Stand With Shaker‘s new initiative, Fast For Shaker. This morning, I was at a meeting of the All-Party Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group with MPs David Davis, Andrew Mitchell, Andy Slaughter, Tania Mathias and others, plus lots of campaigners.
Then I was in Kensington for an interview on London Live, about the launch of Fast For Shaker, which I hope is online somewhere. More info later. For now, here’s the press release. if you’re in London, please come along! Otherwise, keep signing up for the fast, and send in photos!
MPs David Davis, John McDonnell, Caroline Lucas, Andy Slaughter, Tania Mathias, Tom Brake Attend, Plus Shaker’s Father-In-Law Saeed Siddique, representatives of Reprieve, Actor David Morrissey and Comedian Sara Pascoe 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 »
It’s eight months since the Labour MP John McDonnell MP, an indefatigable campaigner for justice, established the Shaker Aamer All-Party Parliamentary Group, to call for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who is still held, despite being approved for release by the US authorities twice — in 2007, under George W. Bush, and in 2009, under Barack Obama.
With support from the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, which spent many years working to get the Parliamentary Group established, and also from We Stand With Shaker, the campaign group established by Andy Worthington and Joanne MacInnes, which was also launched eight months ago, the Parliamentary Group sent a delegation to Washington D.C. after the General Election in May. The four MPs involved — the Conservative MPs David Davis and Andrew Mitchell, and the Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Slaughter — met with Senators, including John McCain and Dianne Feinstein, and Obama administration officials, in the hope of securing a timeline for Shaker’s release, although no date has been given, despite repeated rumors that it would be this summer, and despite a hard-hitting op-ed in the New York Times by the MPs, who wrote, “There is simply no reason, domestic or international, for the United States to keep Mr. Aamer in custody,” and also stated, “It is difficult for us to shake off the depressing notion that the Obama administration is indifferent to the repeated requests of the British government,” adding that this is “a slap in the face for America’s staunchest friend.”
Prior to this, in March, the Parliamentary Group also secured a hugely important debate in the House of Commons, which led to the government supporting the motion “call[ing] 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 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. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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