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.

The organisers had originally been told that they would be able to hand in the giant card to the Embassy, but permission was refused on Wednesday. MPs from the newly established Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, which has cross-party support and is led by John McDonnell MP, had been intending to hand in the card, and celebrities involved in the We Stand With Shaker campaign had also been intending to turn up to show their support. The full list of signatories on the card is below.

Instead, the co-directors of the campaign, Joanne MacInnes and Andy Worthington — and some of the campaign’s high-profile supporters — will be outside the US Embassy at 4pm with the giant Valentine’s Day card and the giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer that is at the heart of the campaign, and they will be available for a photo opportunity and for interviews.

Responding to the news, Andy Worthington said, “This is typical of the manner in which Shaker Aamer continues to be treated with disdain by the US authorities. The Ambassador is snubbing British MPs, and in the meantime we hear that, despite David Cameron discussing Shaker’s case with Barack Obama last month, defense secretary Chuck Hagel apparently knows nothing about it.”

He added: “The Ambassador should welcome a visit from the MPs, President Obama should take the necessary steps to secure Shaker’s release, and David Cameron must renew calls for his release and return to the UK with far more vigour than he has shown to date. It is intolerable that Shaker Aamer is about to begin his 14th year of imprisonment without charge or trial at Guantánamo, when he was first told he would be going home eight long years ago.”

Signatories to the Valentine’s Day card for Shaker Aamer

John McDonnell MP (Labour, Hayes and Harlington)
David Davis MP (Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden)
Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton Pavilion)
Mark Durkan MP (SDLP, Foyle)
Mike Weir MP (SNP, Angus)
Andrew Mitchell MP (Conservative, Sutton Coldfield)
Joan Ruddock MP (Labour, Lewisham Deptford)
Alistair Burt MP (Conservative, North East Bedfordshire)
Sadiq Khan MP (Labour, Tooting, and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice)
Dr. Julian Huppert MP (Liberal Democrat, Cambridge)
Gavin Shuker MP (Labour and Cooperative, Luton South)
Sir Bob Russell MP (Liberal Democrat, Colchester)
Andy Slaughter MP (Labour, Hammersmith)
Hywel Williams MP (Plaid Cymru, Arfon)
Stephen Timms MP (Labour, East Ham)
Yasmin Qureshi MP (Labour, Bolton South-East)
Jeremy Corbyn MP (Labour, Islington North)
John Leech MP (Liberal Democrat, Manchester Withington)
Diane Abbott MP (Labour, Hackney North and Stoke Newington)
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC (Labour, House of Lords)
Clive Stafford Smith, Director, Reprieve
Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK
Shami Chakrabarti, Director, Liberty
Denis Halliday, former Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations
Roger Waters, musician (ex-Pink Floyd)
Cori Crider, lawyer, Reprieve
Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate
Sophie Ellis-Bextor, singer
Janet Ellis, actress/broadcaster
Juliet Stevenson, actress
Mark Rylance, actor
Frankie Boyle, comedian
Jeremy Hardy, comedian
Harriet Walter, actress
Bill Paterson, actor
Julie Hesmondhalgh, actress
Rhys Ifans, actor
Bill Nighy, actor
Sara Pascoe, comedian
Peter Oborne, journalist and author
Nick Davies, journalist and author
Jemima Khan, journalist
Bianca Jagger, President and Chief Executive, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation
Anna Perera, author, Guantanamo Boy
Shaykh Suliman Ghani, TV presenter and teacher
Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
Dr. David Nicholl, neurologist
Gillian Slovo, novelist and playwright
Lisa Appignanesi, writer
Dr. Saleyha Ahsan, doctor and journalist
Charlie Winston, musician
Ken Loach, film director
Mike Leigh, film director
David Lan, artistic director of Young Vic
Nicolas Kent, theatre director
Carol Anne Grayson, writer/researcher
David Knopfler, musician
Sarah Gillespie, musician
SE (His Excellency) Prince Stefano Massimo di Roccasecca dei Volsci
Susie Orbach, psychotherapist and writer
Lindsay German, Chair of Stop The War
John Rees, presenter of The Report, Islam Channel
Joanne MacInnes, We Stand With Shaker
Andy Worthington, We Stand With Shaker
Joy Hurcombe, Chair, Save Shaker Aamer Campaign

For further information, please contact Joanne MacInnes on 07867 553580 or email Andy Worthington.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter. 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.

2 Responses

  1. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks Andy

    Here in Canada the last four or five ambassadors have been obliged to tout the shameful claims of torture apologists, that the USA was justified in sending Maher Arar to Jordan and Syria for a year of torture. They won`t apologize, won`t remove him from the “no fly list”, and have implied he would be subjected to a second round of cruel extraordinary rendition if a plane he was on ever landed in the USA.

    There is an old movie, with Mikhail Baryshnikov, where he played a dissident who fled the old Soviet Union, who ends up back in the Gulag when the plane he was on has to be diverted, due to bad weather, and is diverted to an airport in the USSR.

    Maher Arar faces this risk if he ever decides to fly from Canada.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for that, arcticredriver.
    I don’t suppose the US would actually do anything to Maher Arar again. I think the threat is primarily through the advice of lawyers, whose first aim is to protect their bosses (the US government) from being sued for damages. However, I completely understand why no former “war on terror” prisoner would ever trust the US again. Imagine any former prisoner applying to visit the US and somehow being accepted. They’d never go, would they, because they’d be afraid of being picked up and imprisoned as an “enemy combatant” all over again.

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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