Shaker Aamer Speaks from Guantánamo, and His Family Talk About His 13-Year Ordeal

We Stand With Shaker: the logo for the campaign to secure the release  from Guantanamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, launched on November 24, 2014.Today, the Daily Mail, which has thrown its weight behind We Stand With Shaker — the campaign to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, which I launched three weeks ago with my colleague Joanne MacInnes — published an article dealing with Shaker’s recent phone call to his family from the prison — shockingly, the first call he has been allowed to make in two and a half years. The article also included comments made by his father-in-law, Saeed Siddique, and by Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal action charity Reprieve, who visited Shaker at Guantánamo last week.

The Mail began its coverage by describing the call — on an iPad provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross, who also facilitated the call — noting that the screen was “filled by a familiar round face with a white-flecked beard and deeply-etched lines,” but adding, “Though the man forced one of his big, trademark smiles, fear and misery were seared in his eyes.”

The family, the article explained, “bolstered his spirits with uplifting stories about their lives — how his children were faring well at school and growing up to make him proud,” although it added that they too — his wife, Zin, and their four children (the youngest of whom is 13, and has never met his father) “struggled to mask their sorrow.”

The very fact that he was allowed to call his family, however, must give hope that his release may be imminent. Although he was banned from talking to his family in 2012 — presumably, though this is not stated, as a punishment for his refusal to be cooperative and to cease his persistent resistance to the injustice of being held indefinitely without charge or trial — he “has been permitted to make two Skype calls to them in the past month.” Read the rest of this entry »

We Stand With Shaker: Open Letter to David Cameron Calls for Release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo and His Return to the UK

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.UPDATE December 18: Please note that the signatory list has been updated with 16 new names, including Bill Nighy, Ken Loach, David Hare, Jeanette Winterson, Andrew Motion, Carol Ann Duffy, Susie Orbach and MPs Sir Alan Duncan and Diane Abbott. More to follow!

Today (December 15), the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched with campaigner Joanne MacInnes three weeks ago secured a ringing endorsement from the Daily Mail — which highlighted Shaker’s plight in a front-page story and editorial on Friday — with the publication, in today’s edition of the Daily Mail, of an open letter to David Cameron, which I wrote, calling for the PM “to pick up the phone to President Obama, and to bring Shaker Aamer home.” The letter was also published on the We Stand With Shaker website.

The open letter is signed by dozens of actors, comedians, politicians, writers and other prominent individuals, including music legend Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd) and Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal action charity Reprieve, who both attended the launch on November 24, the comedian Frankie Boyle, the journalist Jemima Khan, actress Juliet Stevenson, actor Mark Rylance, singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, and Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK.

More signatories will be published in the Daily Mail tomorrow — and I will be updating the list here and on the We Stand With Shaker website accordingly.

The full letter is below. Please feel free to share it widely! There is a real momentum to the campaign at the moment, with lots of TV coverage today, and a profile of the campaign in the Guardian‘s G2 supplement. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: We Stand With Shaker – Andy Worthington on RT, and the Islam Channel on the Human Rights Day Event with Mark Rylance and Vanessa Redgrave

Mark Rylance (C), Vanessa Redgrave (R) and Joanne MacInnes (L) of We Stand With Shaker read out from Shaker Aamer's Declaration of No Human Rights, written in Guantanamo, in Parliament Square on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2014 (Photo: Andy Worthington).What a busy three weeks it has been — first with the launch of the We Stand With Shaker campaign outside Parliament on November 24, and then, this week, with the release of our short film for Shaker for Human Rights Day (featuring Juliet Stevenson and David Morrissey) and, rather tending to overshadow everything else, the release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into CIA torture; in other words, the report examining — and condemning — the Bush administration’s torture program.

My first thoughts about that report are here, in an article for Al-Jazeera, entitled, “Punishment, not apology after CIA torture report,” which I’m glad to say has had over 6200 likes so far.

In addition, the We Stand With Shaker campaign continues to make waves. Just as revulsion at the torture inflicted in the “war on terror” seems to have become somewhat fashionable, so the unjust imprisonment of Shaker Aamer is awakening indignation within the British establishment. This week the Daily Mail got on board, calling for Shaker’s release from its front page!

Below I’m posting a short interview I did on RT, on the day of the launch, which was only made available a few days ago, but which, I believe, captures well Shaker’s plight and the unjustifiable nature of his ongoing imprisonment: Read the rest of this entry »

Come and See Andy Worthington and the Four Fathers Play the Campaign Song for We Stand With Shaker in London on Saturday

The Four Fathers at Guantanamo, a collage by Bren Horstead of the band fronted by human rights journalist and campaigner Andy Worthington, who wrote the campaign song for the We Stand With Shaker campaign he launched with Joanne MacInnes in November 2014.If you’re in London on Saturday and can get to Brockley (SE4, two stops from London Bridge, three stops from Canada Water), I’ll be showcasing another of my interests, in addition to being a human rights journalist and campaigner — singing in a band, playing the campaign song I wrote for the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched with Joanne MacInnes two weeks ago.

My band The Four Fathers are playing at the Brockley Christmas Market, on Coulgate Street, right next to Brockley Station, from 1.30 to 2pm, and everyone is welcome. The event is free, and there will be loads of welcoming stalls selling Christmas presents, food and drink.

The We Stand With Shaker campaign seeks to secure the release from Guantánamo, without further delay, of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who is still held, despite being cleared for release in 2007 and 2009, and despite the British government’s official position — that it is seeking his release and his return to his family in London. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Juliet Stevenson and David Morrissey Star in New Film About Shaker Aamer for Human Rights Day, Calling for His Release from Guantánamo

A screen shot of Juliet Stevenson from the short film the We Stand With Shaker campaign made for Human Rights Day, of Shaker Aamer's Declaration of No Human Rights, written in Guantanamo.Watch the video of Juliet Stevenson and David Morrissey reading from Shaker Aamer’s “Declaration of No Human Rights” below.

Yesterday, December 10, was Human Rights Day, marking the 66th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations (on December 10, 1948). Its 30 articles provided a benchmark for decent behaviour following the atrocities of the Second World War, and they have been enormously influential, leading, for example, to the UN Convention Against Torture, which was ratified in 1987.

However, after the dreadful terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the US swept aside laws and treaties dealing with the treatment of prisoners, embracing torture — as revealed on Tuesday in the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA torture program, which I wrote about here — and engaging in a widespread program of kidnapping (“extraordinary rendition”) and indefinite detention without charge or trial.

A bleakly iconic manifestation of the US governments post-9/11 flight from the law is Guantánamo, where 136 men still languish, hoping that the uproar over the CIA’s torture program and its network of”black sites” will not mean that they — who have also suffered, and continue to suffer the torture of open-ended arbitrary detention, and, in some cases, brutal force-feeding — will be overlooked. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Promotes We Stand With Shaker on George Galloway’s Sputnik Show on RT

Joanne MacInnes and Andy Worthington of We Stand With Shaker with George Galloway and Gayatri for the Sputnik show broadcast on RT on November 29, 2014.Today (November 29), We Stand With Shaker, the new campaign to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, got a big boost when campaign coordinator Joanne MacInnes and I were invited onto George Galloway’s Sputnik show on RT to discuss the campaign with George — and his co-host Gayatri. Please also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and watch the campaign video here.

We were on the first half of the show, which was about 13 minutes in total, and as well as giving us the opportunity to promote the campaign and to tell Shaker’s story to a global audience, the interview also featured clips of music legend Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd) and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell speaking at the launch on Monday.

I do hope you have time to watch the show, which is posted below via YouTube:

This is how George described the program on the RT website: Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Speaks at the Launch of We Stand With Shaker, the Campaign to Free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo

Andy Worthington and Joanne MacInnes of We Stand With Shaker with music legend Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd) at the launch of the campaign outside the Houses of Parliament on November 24, 2014 (Photo: Stefano Massimo).Below is a short video, on Vimeo, of me (Andy Worthington) talking to doctor and filmmaker Saleyha Ahsan about the launch of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, to secure the release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo, which took place outside Parliament on Monday. Please also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and watch the campaign video here. [Click on the photo of me at the launch with Roger Waters and campaign co-ordinator Joanne MacInnes to enlarge it].

Saleyha filmed me after the launch, and I explained who had been there — Roger Waters, Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve, Caroline Lucas, John McDonnell, Jeremy Hardy and Peter Tatchell — and I also explained why the campaign is so important: because Shaker has twice been approved for release by the US (in 2007 and 2009), and his return to the UK has been requested by successive governments since August 2007, and therefore his ongoing imprisonment is completely unacceptable.

He continues to be held, it seems certain, because he is eloquent, and has always resisted the injustices of the US-led “war on terror” — with its torture, rendition, and indefinite detention without charge or trial — and because he is a fount of information about the crimes committed in the name of this “war,” but as both the US and UK governments have proven adept at preventing any court from holding them accountable for their actions, it would seems clear that he continues to be held solely because, on release, he may embarrass both governments.

Although the US appears to want to return him to Saudi Arabia, the country of his birth, where he will be silenced, that is not an option, as he was given indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and the British government has a non-negotiable obligation to secure his return to his family in the UK. We call on David Cameron to call Barack Obama immediately to demand that he give 30 days’ notice prior to Shaker’s release, as required in US law (in legislation passed by cynical Republican politicians), and then send a plane to bring Shaker back. With immediate action Shaker could be back in the new year.

Andy at Stand With Shaker Launch from saleyha ahsan on Vimeo.

Also, this week, I spoke about We Stand With Shaker with Bay Area radio host Peter B. Collins, for his show “Processing Distortion” on whistleblower Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frogs Post website. The show is only available to subscribers (for a minimum payment of $6, for which listeners get a whole month of broadcasts), but I can recommend it. Peter and I have spoken many times before, and he is a particularly well-informed host. A 90-second preview of me talking about the British government’s evasion regarding Shaker’s case is here.

This is how Peter described the show:

In the second of two reports on Guantánamo prisoners [the first was with Jon B. Eisenberg, one of the lawyers for hunger striking prisoner Abu Wa'el Dhiab], Andy Worthington details the new campaign to bring home Shaker Aamer, the last Briton at Gitmo. With a large, inflatable “Shaker” and a heartfelt endorsement from Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, activists are demanding that the Cameron government negotiate the immediate release of Aamer, who has been held for 13 years without charge or trial, and was cleared for release 5 years ago. We talk about the recent transfer of 6 prisoners, with 10 more reported to be imminent, and the disappointing recent ruling about force feeding by Judge Gladys Kessler. Roger Waters makes a cameo appearance.

I made other media appearances in the week, but sadly most of them are not online. I was on RT’s main news at 6pm on Monday, and a film crew from the Islam Channel interviewed me at my house on Wednesday for a show broadcast on Wednesday evening that also featured my colleague on the campaign, Joanne MacInnes, and Katie Taylor of Reprieve‘s Life After Guantánamo project. As I say, though, neither is online.

However, a third appearance will definitely be online soon — mine and Jo’s appearance on RT’s Sputnik show with George Galloway, which we recorded on Thursday, and which is broadcast today (Saturday November 29) — at 1.30, 7.30 and 11.30pm.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

STOP PRESS! Roger Waters Flies into London to Support Monday Launch of We Stand With Shaker Campaign

The logo for the We Stand With Shaker campaign, launching on Nov. 24, 2014.Music legend Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s chief songwriter, flew into London this evening for the Monday lunchtime launch of We Stand With Shaker, a new campaign aimed at securing the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison.

The launch is at 12.30 today (Monday November 24) in Old Palace Yard, opposite the Houses of Parliament, by the statue of King George V. Roger will be there at 12.15 to answer questions and to stand for photos with the giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer that is a key part of the campaign.

Below is a powerful and moving video of Roger reading out a letter from Shaker this summer, provided to him by Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve. Clive is also attending the launch, as well as John McDonnell MP (Labour, Hayes and Harlington), Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton Pavilion), comedian Jeremy Hardy, myself, and others tbc. Read the rest of this entry »

We Stand With Shaker: Come to the Launch in London on Monday Nov. 24 Calling for the Release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo

We Stand With Shaker: the logo for the campaign to secure the release  from Guantanamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prson, launched on November 24, 2014.Initially published on the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with US attorney Tom Wilner, as “We Stand With Shaker: New Campaign Launches on Nov. 24 Calling for the Release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo.” Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

On Monday Nov, 24, a new campaign, We Stand With Shaker, will be launched in London, calling for the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, and his return to his family in the UK. Shaker has twice been approved for release by the US authorities — under President Bush in 2007 and under President Obama in 2009 — and the British government has been calling for his return since 2007, and yet, inexplicably, he is still held.

The launch takes place from 12.30pm to 1.30pm in Old Palace Yard, opposite the Houses of Parliament, and will be attended by Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, John McDonnell MP (Labour, Hayes and Harlington), Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton Pavilion), comedian Jeremy Hardy, Andy Worthington, the director of the campaign, and others tbc. Those attending will be standing with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer, designed to represent how he is the “elephant in the room” when it comes to Britain’s dealings with the US.

If you’re in London, or anywhere near, and want to bring an end to Shaker’s 13 unjustifiable years of imprisonment without charge or trial, please come along, in an orange jumpsuit if possible, and with a sign saying “I Stand With Shaker” to show your support, but if you don’t have any of these, or can’t get hold of them, don’t worry; please come along anyway and show your support. You will be warmly welcomed. Read the rest of this entry »

We Stand With Shaker: Send Us Your Photos In Solidarity with Shaker Aamer, the Last British Resident in Guantánamo

We Stand With Shaker: Andy Worthington, the director of the campaign, stands with a placard in support of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantanamo. The "We Stand With Shaker" campaign launches on Nov. 24, 2014, the 13th anniversary of Shaker's capture in Afghanistan.Please like and share “We Stand With Shaker” on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and send us your photos holding a sign reading “I Stand With Shaker” now!

On Sunday I announced the launch of “We Stand With Shaker,” a new campaign to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and his return to his family — his British wife and four British children — in south London. Shamefully, for both the US and the UK governments, Shaker is still held despite being approved for release under President Bush in 2007, and under President Obama in 2009. This is an intolerable situation, and every day that he remains held ought to be a source of profound shame for the UK and US governments.

The “We Stand With Shaker” campaign will be officially launched on Monday November 24, the 13th anniversary of Shaker’s capture, at 12.30pm, in Old Palace Yard opposite the House of Parliament (by the statue of King George V), when some of the campaign’s high-profile supporters — including lawyers, politicians, journalists and comedians — will stand with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer, the centrepiece of the campaign, and the “elephant in the room” when it comes to the UK’s dealings with the US, and will call for his immediate release.

Tomorrow we will be issuing a press release providing full details about the launch, and on Monday our website will go live. As well as featuring photos of celebrities standing with the inflatable figure of Shaker, the website will also feature a promotional video for the campaign, focused on my band The Four Fathers performing “Song for Shaker Aamer,” the campaign song that I wrote. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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