Seven Ex-Guantánamo Prisoners Unite in London to Call for Prison’s Closure on Jan. 11; Shaker Aamer Photographed With Inflatable Figure of Himself Outside US Embassy


A historic moment: Former Guantanamo prisoner Shaker Aamer photographed outside the US Embassy on January 7, 2015 with the inflatable figure of himself that was at the heart of the We Stand With Shaker campaign for his release (Photo: Stefano Massimo).Monday January 11 is the 14th anniversary of the opening of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, and, as over a dozen rights groups hold a protest outside the White House, calling for President Obama to close Guantánamo in his last year in office, seven former Guantánamo prisoners from the UK will gather outside the US Embassy to also demand the closure of the prison.

The seven former prisoners are Shaker Aamer, Moazzam Begg, Ruhal Ahmad, Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul, Bisher al-Rawi and Tarek Dergoul.

Ruhal Ahmad, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul (the Tipton Three) and Tarek Dergoul were released in 2004, Moazzam Begg was released in 2005, Bisher al-Rawi in 2007, and, after extraordinary campaigning from activists, MPs and the media, Shaker Aamer was released on October 30, 2015, eight years after he was first told that the US no longer wanted to hold him.

As the co-founder and co-director of the We Stand With Shaker campaign (with Joanne Macinnes), I will be taking part in the protest outside the White House, as part of a short tour to coincide with the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, and I have brought with from the UK the giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer that was the centerpiece of the campaign. The photo above is of Shaker outside the US Embassy on January 7, when Joanne MacInnes and I met up with him to take the photo with campaign photographer Stefano Massimo.

Speaking about the protest and the anniversary, Shaker Aamer said:

Even though I’ve been free for over two months, I haven’t yet seen my fellow hostages from Guantánamo. This will be a momentous day when we gather for the first time to fulfil our ambition to see the closure of the prison and justice for our brothers still held there.

I look forward to standing with everyone — all the brothers, my MP supporters and freedom campaigners — on this extremely important mission of closing Guantánamo before President Obama leaves office. They might not let us come to America in person but they can’t stop our spirit and our message from reaching the American public and the rest of the world.

This is my statement from Florida, where I am right now, and where I’m taking part in a protest and march to US Southern Command this afternoon:

I’ve traveled to the US to call for the closure of Guantánamo on 11 January, the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison. I have brought the giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer with me to carry Shaker’s message calling for the closure of the prison because he cannot go in person, and also to highlight the particular success of the campaign to free him, for which British MPs, the media, campaigners and members of the public who called for his release should be proud.

The inflatable of Shaker Aamer will stay in the US and be used as a campaign tool, taken on tour all over the country in support of President Obama’s efforts to finally close Guantánamo in his last year in office, and to finally remove this shameful stain on the US’s reputation as a country that respects the rule of law.

Jeremy Varon, a spokesperson for Witness Against Torture, one of the groups organizing the White House protest, said:

Now is the time for Obama to accomplish a central goal of his administration by closing Guantánamo. There is today a renewed climate of fear and hate reminiscent of the post-September 11 mindset that led to torture and indefinite detention in the first place. Guantánamo is the bitter legacy of a politics of fear, which must be rejected.

The seven former Guantánamo prisoners will be available for photos outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square from 3.15-3.30pm. The Embassy is at 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 2LQ.

Three of the former prisoners – Shaker Aamer, Moazzam Begg and Ruhal Ahmed – will be available for interview (strictly by prior arrangement) from 3.30-4.15pm, and Moazzam Begg will be available for pre-recorded interviews prior to the event.

The London Guantánamo Campaign will be holding a vigil outside the embassy from 6-8pm. They will be joined by the former prisoners along with MPs and celebrities who support the campaign, and who supported the We Stand With Shaker campaign. Interviewees will be available during the vigil.

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact We Stand with Shaker co-director Joanne MacInnes on +44 (0)7867 553580 or by email.

In the US, please contact Jeremy Varon on 732-979-3119 or by email
or email Andy Worthington.

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.

3 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks to everyone liking and sharing this. Much appreciated. I managed to put it together yesterday morning before the protest in Florida outside the HQ of US Southern Command. What a great protest! Loads of young people, passionate about justice. Please check out the organisers, POWIR (People’s Opposition to War, Imperialism, and Racism):

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Anika Kamal wrote:

    It’s good to see the real Shaker posing beside the inflatable.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    It certainly is, Anika. We’d been waiting a long time for that!

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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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