Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses the Imminent Release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo with Scott Horton


A previously unseen photo of Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd) with Andy Worthington and Joanne MacInnes of We Stand With Shaker, at the launch of the campaign outside the Houses of Parliament on November 24, 2014 (Photo: Dot Young).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.

Nevertheless, Shaker was not released, even though it should have been easy to send him home to his family in the UK — his British wife and his four British children — and campaigners and lawyers were left to conclude that there was a lack of political will to release him on both sides of the Atlantic, no doubt because of his outspokenness, and because of what he knows about various crimes committed by the US in its “war on terror,” both at Guantánamo and in Afghanistan. Over time, it also became apparent that actually the US was hoping to quietly release him to Saudi Arabia, the country of his birth, where he would be silenced — and, it should be noted, separated from his family — and it also had to be inferred that the UK was also happy for him to be returned to Saudi Arabia.

In recent years, however, the tide began to turn. The persistent campaigning of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign (for whom I frequently appeared at speaking events, and also occasionally joined their weekly vigils in Parliament Square) led to the involvement of sympathetic MPs in his case, most noticeably John McDonnell, the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, who, with his close friend Jeremy Corbyn (Labour, Islington North) has always resisted all forms of injustice, along with our sole Green MP, Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion).

John set up the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group last November (long before he and Jeremy became the leader and the shadow chancellor of the Labour Party!), at the same time that I set up a new campaigning group, We Stand With Shaker, with my activist friend Joanne MacInnes, to highlight Shaker’s plight in the mainstream media and on social media, using a giant inflatable figure of Shaker with which we persuaded over a hundred celebrities and MPs to have their photos taken.

The campaign somehow resonated with journalists, MPs and the public at large, and as Shaker’s case became more prominent, the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group drew in cross-party support, securing a Parliamentary debate in May that led to the government supporting the call for Shaker’s release and his return to the UK, and, in May, with the support of campaigners, sending a cross-party delegation of MPs to Washington D.C. to meet with Senators and Obama administration officials, and after rumors that first surfaced in April regarding Shaker’s release, we have now had confirmation that he will be freed within a month, returning to the UK to be reunited with his family.

I discussed some, if not all of the above, with Scott on his show, and as I noted above, I hope you have time to listen to it, and to share it if you find it useful.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album, ‘Love and War,’ is available for download or on CD via Bandcamp — also see here). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, the co-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 the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — 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!

    News that that Obama Presidency has given Congress the 30 day notice they require of a transfer from Guantanamo is excellent news. I hope to hear that he is released, and receives the support he will need to recover his physical and mental health.

    When I read the news I became concerned that there would be a last minute hiccup, that prevents his release.

    Colonel Baumgarner, the warden back in 2006 when Shaker and the other three men were dryboarded in the former CIA camp the GIs called “Camp No” was interviewed recently by an Israeli publication. It was the usual pompous and self-serving lies about how torture worked, how extreme toughness was appropriate, as if the captives were all convicted of crimes. It is surprising that Baumgarner hasn’t tried to keep the lowest possible public profile, so as to try to prevent facing war crime charges, if he ever leaves the USA.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. I suppose Col. Bumgarner feels reassured that his pro-torture superiors have not been held accountable for their crimes, or perhaps, like them – or some of them – he thinks attack is the best form of defense, to try and make sure that no one comes after him.

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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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