Five Days to Go: The Countdown to Shaker Aamer’s Release from Guantánamo


Malila Durant, daughter of We Stand With Shaker co-director Joanne MacInnes, stands with a poster marking the countdown to the hoped-for release of Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo on October 25.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.

Below is further information about the countdown events taking place this week, including events in London tomorrow and on Saturday. I hope to see you if you’re available! It’s a version of the press release that was sent out earlier today.

Five days to go: Today, 20th October, celebrity fasters, as part of the Fast For Shaker campaign, are the comedians Frankie Boyle and Sara Pascoe, the actress Juliet Stevenson and the actress and TV presenter Janet Ellis. It is also the 18th birthday of Shaker’s daughter Johina, who he has not seen since she was four.

Four days to go: Tomorrow, 21st October, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign will be holding its regular Wednesday vigil in Parliament Square from 1-3pm, where campaigners will have posters counting down to Sunday, reading ‘4 Days To Go.’ Those fasting include the musician Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd), actor and director Mark Rylance, John McDonnell MP (Labour), Caroline Lucas MP (Green), Jennie Formby, the Political Director of Unite, and Medea Benjamin of Code Pink in the US.

Three days to go: On Thursday 22nd October, fasters include Rebecca Long Bailey MP (Labour), Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party, Jenny Jones, Green Party London Assembly member, and author and journalist Yvonne Ridley.

Two days to go: On Friday 23rd October, fasters include Cortney Busch, one of Shaker’s lawyers at Reprieve, and the musician David Knopfler.

One day to go: On Saturday 24th October, marking Shaker’s 5000th day in Guantánamo — and hopefully his last —  the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign (with We Stand With Shaker, the London Guantánamo Campaign and the Stop the War Coalition) are holding a vigil for Shaker outside 10 Downing Street from 2-4pm, with speakers and music. Andy Worthington — hopefully with a few members of his band The Four Fathers — will play an acoustic version of his ‘Song for Shaker Aamer‘, featured in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker. Those fasting include actor David Morrissey (on his 2nd day), Suliman Gani, teacher, broadcaster and family friend, and Sir Iqbal Sacranie OBE, former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Andy Worthington, co-director of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, said, “Time has run out for the dark forces that have kept Shaker imprisoned for eight years since he was first told the US no longer wanted to hold him. We hope those in power have got the message, and that Shaker will be back in the UK on Sunday. We look forward to welcoming him home, and if he is not back by Sunday, MPs, campaigners and celebrities stand ready to make even more noise than we have to date.”

In a letter to the Guardian, Joy Hurcombe, the chair of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, added, “Our campaign to save Shaker Aamer will get louder and stronger if he is not released this time. Shaker Aamer must be free or all of us are in chains.”

For further information, please contact:
Joanne MacInnes on 07867 553580 or by email.
Andy Worthington on 020 8691 9316 or by email.

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.

4 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Presenting the countdown to Shaker Aamer’s release from ‪Guantanamo‬, hopefully on Sunday – ‪‎Fast For Shaker‬ supporters continue their rolling 24-hour fasts, there’s a vigil outside Parliament tomorrow, and another outside 10 Downing Street on Saturday, marking Shaker’s 5000th day in Guantanamo. We’re counting down with placards, so here’s We Stand With Shaker co-director Joanne MacInnes’ daughter Malila holding today’s ‘5 days to go’ sign. Join the fast here:

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks to everyone liking and sharing this. I’ve just updated the Fast For Shaker supporters’ photo page. There are now 58 supporters who have fasted holding up signs in solidarity with Shaker from all over the world. Please do check it out! I think it’s genuinely quite inspiring!

  3. arcticredriver says...

    Just one day left. My anxiety for Shaker won’t take a step down, until he has returned to the UK, and a UK medical team says his health is no longer in immediate risk.

    Shaker is a Saudi citizen, not a UK citizen, and, just as the US repatriated Younus Chekouri to Morocco, against his will, I wonder whether he might end up in Saudi Arabia, not the UK.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. I think it’s well-established now that the Saudi option is no longer an option, although time will tell how long the US was pushing for that, and quite what the UK involvement was. However, I too worry about Shaker’s health, and can only hope that he will be given time and space by the media to recover. My understanding is that almost no one knows where Shaker will be taken for medical care and treatment, which is good, as the British media are notoriously disgusting when it comes to hunting down newsworthy individuals.

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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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