Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses the Release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo with Richie Allen


A screenshot of Richie Allen's video for his interview with Andy Worthington on November 5, 2015.It’s ten days since Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, was released and brought back to the UK to be reunited with his family, and after an immediate media whirlwind everything went very quiet, with a few noble exceptions — Richie Allen, the Manchester-based Irish broadcaster, Scott Horton, the US libertarian, and Peter B. Collins, the West Coast progressive radio host, who all got in touch and asked for interviews.

I’ve known all three for some time, and tonight I’m promoting my interview with Richie — it’s on YouTube via David Icke’s website, and you can also find it here on Podomatic. The other two shows aren’t available right now — Scott’s website has been down for a few days, and my interview with Peter, for Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frogs website, hasn’t been uploaded yet.

In a 30-minute interview, I spoke to Richie about Shaker’s release, and attempted to answer questions about how his health might be — a question that I couldn’t really answer, as those close to him are keeping very quiet right now, and allowing him to recover in peace.

However, I was able to explain how, at Guantánamo, he suffered from a range of physical and mental ailments that were identified nearly two years ago, when an independent medical expert was allowed to visit him, and how, as someone who persistently resisted the injustices of the “war on terror,” advocating for the rights of all the prisoners, he was subjected to regular violence — and also spent much of his time at Guantánamo in isolation.

The show is below:

Richie and I also spoke about some of the particularly unpleasant episodes in the “war on terror” that Shaker knew about — the presence of British agents in the room while he was being violently abused by US operatives in Afghanistan, before his transfer to Guantánamo; his experiences after his capture, when Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the head of an independent training camp that was not aligned with Al-Qaeda, was flown to Egypt, where, under torture, he made a false confession that Al-Qaeda was meeting Saddam Hussein to obtain chemical weapons; and his claims that he was tortured on the night that three men died in Guantánamo, allegedly by committing suicide, in June 2006.

I pointed out that these incidents are all publicly known, and that both the British and American governments are adept at avoiding any kind of accountability for their actions, but that, nevertheless, it appears that his release was delayed, year after year, simply to avoid embarrassment for the US and the UK.

I also spoke about how we need an independent, judge-led inquiry into British complicity in torture and other abuses of the “war on terror,” and contrasted the UK’s relentless secrecy with the publication, last December, of the 500-page executive summary of the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into the CIA’s torture program, which, although subject to redactions, demonstrated far more transparency than has been forthcoming in the UK.

We also spoke about the so-called Snoopers’ Charter that the British government is currently hoping to pass, which I oppose wholeheartedly, and I noted with approval the opposition to it of the Conservative MP David Davis (the co-chair of the All-Party Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group), who, at the weekend, was interviewed by the Observer — see “Tory rebel David Davis: ‘We haven’t had a Stasi or a Gestapo in Britain, so people are intellectually lazy about surveillance.’”

I hope you have time to listen to my interview, that you like it, and that you’ll share it if you do. I’ll post links to the other shows as soon as they’re available.

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, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), 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.

7 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s the link to my recent half-hour interview with the Manchester-based Irish radio host Richie Allen, about Shaker Aamer’s release from ‪‎Guantanamo‬. Richie’s a sensitive host, and this was a great interview. I hope you have the chance to listen to it, and to share it if you do.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Melani Finn wrote:

    Great stuff.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Melani. Good to hear from you.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Michael Bentley wrote:

    Really looking forward to listening to this tomorrow when I’m not so tired. Andy describes this as a “great interview” with a “sensitive host”, so do listen to it if you want to know more about Shaker Aamer or a deeper understanding of the issues.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Well, I just hope I didn’t oversell it, Michael!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Michael Bentley wrote:

    No, you certainly didn’t, Andy! I’ve just listened to it, and it was everything you promised. Richie was an incredibly sensitive interviewer, and you were as eloquent as always. As for Shaker, his experiences were worse than I even realised. The most terrifying thing to hear was that he was beaten up almost daily by the armed response teams. I can’t imagine the strength of a man who managed to mentally and physically survive all that.

    Guantanamo is basically the stuff of my worst nightmares (well, maybe the black sites are even worse). As the remnants of my experience with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, I basically feel scared sometimes in the safety of my own bed. People like my partner Angie can often be left with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (thankfully, Angie seems free of that) as a result of weeks in an ICU, even though they were looked after with care and compassion by incredibly dedicated medical staff – it was still a genuinely traumatic experience (one of the most common, in fact). And then I think of what Shaker went through and I just can’t grasp it. I’ve had friends on Facebook (not many) who defended Gitmo and said it should be kept open. When that happens, I just don’t know what to say to them, beyond the fact that all countries have an obligation to follow international law. I mean, where does one start when people are that ignorant or prejudiced?

    My admiration for Shaker is unbounded. I know it won’t work out like that, but I wish him and his family freedom from suffering for the rest of their lives. Not a single sleepless night, no more mental or emotional pain. No one deserves that freedom and happiness more than they do.

    And then, seeing Blair’s nauseating fake “respect” at the Cenotaph on Sunday… What a contrast.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Michael, for your empathy. Much more empathy needed in this world!

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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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