Jan. 11 Protest at the White House: Rights Groups Call for President Obama to Close Guantánamo

Andy Worthington and the We Stand With Shaker poster at the protest against Guantanamo outside the Whirte House on January 11, 2015, the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison (Photo: Medea Benjamin for Andy Worthington).Tomorrow is the 14th anniversary of the opening of the US “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and, as I have for the last five years, I will be outside the White House, as part of a protest involving over a dozen rights groups, calling for the closure of the prison as swiftly as possible.

My presence at the protest is part of a short US tour I’m undertaking to highlight the necessity to close Guantánamo without further delay. on Friday I flew into Miami form London — my first ever visit to Florida — where I was greeted by a great group of peace and social justice activists, and where, on Saturday, I attended a rally and march to the gates of US Southern Command, responsible for overseeing Guantánamo. Outside Southcom HQ, I spoke about the need for the prison to be closed, to end the torture of those held indefinitely without charge or trial, and to restore, to the US, some notion that this remains a country that respects justice and the rule of law, and that the illegality and brutality of the country’s response to 9/11 can finally be overcome. My thanks to the People’s Opposition to War, Imperialism, and Racism (POWIR) for organizing this event, and I’d like to say that what made it particularly impressive was the number of young people involved.

This year I have brought with me a giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, who was finally freed from the prison on October 30, eight years after he was first told that the US no longer wanted to hold him, under President Bush, and six years after he was also approved for release by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after first taking office in January 2009. Read the rest of this entry »

Seven Ex-Guantánamo Prisoners Unite in London to Call for Prison’s Closure on Jan. 11; Shaker Aamer Photographed With Inflatable Figure of Himself Outside US Embassy

A historic moment: Former Guantanamo prisoner Shaker Aamer photographed outside the US Embassy on January 7, 2015 with the inflatable figure of himself that was at the heart of the We Stand With Shaker campaign for his release (Photo: Stefano Massimo).Monday January 11 is the 14th anniversary of the opening of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, and, as over a dozen rights groups hold a protest outside the White House, calling for President Obama to close Guantánamo in his last year in office, seven former Guantánamo prisoners from the UK will gather outside the US Embassy to also demand the closure of the prison.

The seven former prisoners are Shaker Aamer, Moazzam Begg, Ruhal Ahmad, Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul, Bisher al-Rawi and Tarek Dergoul.

Ruhal Ahmad, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul (the Tipton Three) and Tarek Dergoul were released in 2004, Moazzam Begg was released in 2005, Bisher al-Rawi in 2007, and, after extraordinary campaigning from activists, MPs and the media, Shaker Aamer was released on October 30, 2015, eight years after he was first told that the US no longer wanted to hold him.

As the co-founder and co-director of the We Stand With Shaker campaign (with Joanne Macinnes), I will be taking part in the protest outside the White House, as part of a short tour to coincide with the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, and I have brought with from the UK the giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer that was the centerpiece of the campaign. The photo above is of Shaker outside the US Embassy on January 7, when Joanne MacInnes and I met up with him to take the photo with campaign photographer Stefano Massimo. Read the rest of this entry »

Close Guantánamo Now: Andy Worthington’s US Tour on the 14th Anniversary of the Prison’s Opening, January 8-18, 2016

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2011. This year (2016) will be his sixth visit on the anniversary to call for the prison's closure as President Obama promised on his second day in office in January 2009.This Friday (January 8), I’m flying from London to Miami for a short US tour to coincide with the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on January 11. I’ll be flying up to Washington, D.C. on the 10th, protesting outside the White House on the 11th, and moving on to New York City on the 13th, where I have an event lined up in Harlem on the 14th, and where I will be staying until the 18th.

I’m traveling as an expert on Guantánamo, with nearly ten years of experience as a researcher, writer, campaigner and public speaker about the prison and the men held there, the author of The Guantánamo Files, the co-director of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” and the co-founder and co-director of two campaigns: Close Guantanamo and We Stand With Shaker. I’m also hoping to return to the US later in the year with a new book, collection the nest of my writing about Guantánamo over the last eight years, and if you’re a publisher, or have funding ideas, or would like to stage an event for me as part of a tour when the book is published, then please get in touch.

Please also get in touch if you want to contact me on my forthcoming tour, either to interview me (for TV, radio or online) or to arrange a last-minute event. You can also contact Debra Sweet, the national director of the World Can’t Wait, who, as in previous years, is organizing my visit. And while I’m in New York, I’ll have a guitar, and will be delighted to play some of my political songs, including “Song for Shaker Aamer” and “81 Million Dollars,” about the US torture program, which I normally play with my band The Four Fathers. If any musician would like to play with me, do get in touch. Read the rest of this entry »

Former Guantánamo Prisoner Younous Chekkouri Illegally Imprisoned in Morocco; As Murat Kurnaz Calls for His Release, Please Ask John Kerry to Act

Guantanamo prisoner Younous Chekkouri (aka Younus Chekhouri), repatriated to Morocco on September 16, 2015 but imprisoned ever since (Photo collage by Reprieve).

Please write to John Kerry!

Three and a half months ago, in September 2015, Younous Chekkouri (aka Younus Chekhouri), a Moroccan national held at Guantánamo for nearly 14 years, was repatriated. As his lawyers, at the London-based legal charity Reprieve noted, he was “unanimously cleared for release by the six main US government security and intelligence agencies — including the CIA, FBI, and Departments of State and Defense” in 2009, and yet it took another six years to secure his release.

Significantly, his return to Morocco — where he had previously feared being repatriated because of human rights concerns — only took place because the US authorities were told that the Moroccan government accepted that there was no case against Younous.

However, on his return, as I noted at the time, he was imprisoned. I followed up on that story in October, in two articles, “Former Guantánamo Prisoner Betrayed by Morocco: Are Diplomatic Assurances Worthless?” and “Guantánamo’s Tainted Evidence: US Government Publicly Concedes Its Case Against Ex-Prisoner Facing Trial in Morocco Collapsed in 2011,” and again in November, when  his wife Abla wrote an article for Newsweek, in which she asked John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, to intervene. “Secretary Kerry, I am asking one thing of you,” she wrote. “Hold the Moroccan government to its promises. Please get them to release my husband from prison. After 14 years of injustice, I just want this nightmare to end. I just want Younous back by my side.” Read the rest of this entry »

Videos: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play “Masters of War” and “81 Million Dollars”

Andy Worthington's band The Four Fathers play Brockley Christmas Market on December 12, 2015 (Photo: Ruth Gilburt).

Buy our album here!

Below are the last two videos from an event before Christmas at Deptford Cinema, a community cinema in south east London, when I talked about Guantánamo, and my band The Four Fathers played a set of political songs. I spoke about my ten years of research, writing and campaigning about Guantánamo, including the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched in November 2014 with the activist Joanne MacInnes to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who was finally freed on October 30 after nearly 14 years in US custody.

Following my talk, The Four Fathers played eight songs — “Song for Shaker Aamer,”  the song I wrote that was featured in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, updated to reflect Shaker’s release, my roots reggae anthem “Fighting Injustice,” band member Richard Clare’s song “She’s Back” (about Pussy Riot), a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” and four other songs of mine, “Tory Bullshit Blues” and “81 Million Dollars,” about the US torture program ($81m being the amount that was paid, by the Bush administration, to two contractors, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who set up and ran the program), and the new songs “Riot” and “London.”

You can buy our album “Love and War” here, as an eight-track download, or on CD with two extra tracks (including “Masters of War”) — or you can buy tracks individually from just 60p ($0.93) each, although you’re welcome to pay more to support us. Read the rest of this entry »

Videos: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play “Fighting Injustice” and “She’s Back”

Shaker Aamer after his release from Guantanamo at a meeting in the Houses of Parliament on November 17 with, from L to R, Andy Worthington, Patricia Sheerin-Richman and Joy Hurcombe of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, and the broadcaster and teacher Suliman Gani.

Buy our album here!

On December 18, I gave a talk about Guantánamo, my research into the men held there, the lawlessness and cruelty of the prison, and my writing and campaigning for nearly ten years to educate people about the prison and, ultimately, to get it closed, at an event held at the Deptford Cinema, a community cinema in south east London that I wholeheartedly recommend. I spoke not just about my research and my writing, but also the Close Guantánamo campaign I launched nearly four years ago with the US attorney Tom Wilner (who represented the Guantánamo prisoners in their habeas corpus cases before the US Supreme Court), and We Stand With Shaker, the campaign I launched last November with the activist Joanne MacInnes to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who was finally freed on October 30 after nearly 14 years in US custody.

With what I hope is an innovative approach to combining politics, education and entertainment, my talk was followed by a set of political songs by my band The Four Fathers, and I’m delighted that a friend, Andrew — who became involved in We Stand With Shaker via his involvement in CAAB (the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases), for whom I was a speaker at their annual July 4 protest at the NSA’s Menwith Hill spy base in Yorkshire in 2013 — recorded my talk and most of our set, which he has made available via YouTube.

The video of my talk is here, which I posted before Christmas, and on Christmas Day I posted the video of The Four Fathers playing “Song for Shaker Aamer,” the song I wrote that was featured in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, updated to reflect Shaker’s release. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play “Song For Shaker Aamer” at Deptford Cinema, Dec. 18, 2015

Andy Worthington, Joanne MacInnes, Shaker Aamer and doctor and journalist Saleyha Ahsan on November 17, 2015, after Shaker had met supporters and MPs in the Houses of Parliament.

Buy our album here!

One week ago, on December 18, I gave a talk about my writing about Guantánamo and my campaigning to get the prison closed, including the We Stand With Shaker campaign, at Deptford Cinema in south east London, followed by a set by my band The Four Fathers, playing our repertoire of political songs.

In a previous article, I made available a video of my talk, filmed by a friend and campaigner, Andrew, who, I’m delighted to say, also filmed us playing an updated “Song for Shaker Aamer,” used in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, which was launched last November by myself and activist Joanne MacInnes to push for the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, particularly by encouraging celebrities and MPs to stand with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker — a campaign that, I’m glad to note, met with considerable support.

After Shaker’s release on October 30, I amended the lyrics to reflect that he is now a free man. This was the version we played at Deptford Cinema, and, for Christmas — when, I believe, everyone, whatever their religion or belief system, should be encouraged to think about those less fortunate than ourselves, and to help those suffering injustice — I’m pleased to be making it available below via YouTube. The song is about Shaker Aamer, but it also deals with the fundamentally unjust nature of the system of imprisonment without charge or trial at Guantánamo, where 107 men remain. If you find this unacceptable, and want to do something about it, please feel free to join the Close Guantánamo campaign that I set up nearly four years ago with the US attorney Tom Wilner, who has represented Guantánamo prisoners, and advocated on their behalf in their Supreme Court cases in 2004 and 2008. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo, Shaker Aamer and We Stand With Shaker at Deptford Cinema, Dec. 18, 2015

Shaker Aamer with Andy Worthington and Joy Hurcombe, the chair of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, at a meeting in the Houses of Parliament on November 17, 2015.On Friday, I was delighted to present, for the first time, a multi-media evening of my work, in which I spoke about my writing about Guantánamo and my campaigning to get the prison closed, including the We Stand With Shaker campaign, followed by a set by my band The Four Fathers, playing our repertoire of political songs. If anyone in London wants to follow up with a similar evening of a talk followed by music, then please get in touch.

The event was at Deptford Cinema, a great little independent community cinema in south east London — the only independent cinema in the Borough of Lewisham, in fact — which is well worth anyone’s support, and I’m delighted that a friend, Andrew, filmed my talk and has made a significant part of it available on YouTube.

Andrew became involved in We Stand With Shaker via his involvement in CAAB (the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases), for whom I was a speaker at their annual July 4 protest at the NSA’s Menwith Hill spy base in Yorkshire in 2013, and I’m grateful to him for recording it and making it available to a wider audience. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington and Joanne MacInnes Discuss the Success of We Stand With Shaker on George Galloway’s Sputnik Show on RT

Andy Worthington and Joanne MacInnes of the We Stand With Shaker campaign on George Galloway's Sputnik show on RT on December 19, 2015. On Saturday, Joanne MacInnes and I, the co-founders and co-directors of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, which successfully campaigned — with other campaigners, with MPs and with the support of media including the Daily Mail — to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, appeared on George Galloway’s Sputnik Show on RT (filmed on Thursday) to discuss the success of the campaign, how Shaker is doing since his release, what the future holds, and the unreliable nature of the so-called evidence against him (something I had particularly wanted to emphasize).

George — and Gayatri, his wife, who co-hosts the show with him — spoke to Jo and I last November, just after we launched the campaign, and it was great to be invited back to celebrate, as, of course, struggles against colossal injustices undertaken by major world powers do not always end so well — and for the 107 men still held at Guantánamo, of course, the injustice is far from over.

This was how George introduced the show: Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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Andy Worthington

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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