Shaker Aamer: A Voice for Truth and Justice is Finally Released From Guantanamo

Jill McLaughlin | October 30, 2015

Shaker AamerIt is rare that we hear anything good coming out of the criminal U.S. Detention Center in Guantanamo. But this morning people here in the U.S. who have been following the plight of those detained there woke to the news that at long last Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held at Guantanamo was enroute to the U.K. after 14 years of his life were stolen by the U.S. Government. The London Guantanamo Campaign put out the following press release:

The London Guantánamo Campaign [1] welcome the release of the last British resident held at Guantánamo Bay, 46-year old Saudi national Shaker Aamer [2]. Mr Aamer, who has indefinite leave to remain in the UK and a British family, has been held in Guantánamo Bay since February 2002 where he has never faced charges or trial, and was first cleared for release in 2007.

Aisha Maniar, spokesperson for the London Guantánamo Campaign, says, “The London Guantánamo Campaign welcomes the release of the last British resident Shaker Aamer, for whom we have campaigned since 2006.

“We are pleased for the family of Shaker Aamer and hope they will be given the space and privacy to reunite and reconnect as a family. Release from indefinite detention and torture after almost 14 years creates new challenges and difficulties and we urge that Shaker Aamer is given an adequate opportunity to receive rehabilitation and all the care he requires as a survivor of torture.

“Shaker’s case has nonetheless demonstrated the frailty of the ‘special relationship’ between the US and UK. Unanswered questions remain, particularly why it has taken so long, when he was first cleared for release and his return to the UK sought in in 2007. Both the Conservative and Labour parties must respond."

Andy Worthington, the author of Guantanamo Files: The Stories of 774 Prisoners Detained In America’s Illegal Prison, and co-director of "We Stand With Shaker," had this to say “We are delighted to hear about Shaker Aamer’s return to the UK, bringing to an end his long and unacceptable ordeal in US custody for nearly 14 years. Eight years ago, under George W. Bush, Shaker was first told that the US no longer wanted to hold him, and in 2009 the Obama administration also approved him for release. To be held for so long, after being approved for release, is unforgivable.” Andy added, “We hope that on his return he is not detained by the UK authorities, and will immediately be allowed to be reunited with his family, and to begin to receive the medical and psychological care that he urgently needs to begin to put his life back together again.”

Shaker Aamer is a Saudi Arabian-born British resident who was doing charity work in Afghanistan when the U.S. criminally invaded that country. He was kidnapped in December 2001 by bounty hunters who were motivated by the U.S. military’s promise of large sums of money for turning in anyone who they claimed was a Taliban or Al Qaeda member. These bounty hunters turned Aamer over to the U.S. claiming he was a Taliban leader. Two months later, Aamer was sent to Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. At the time of his capture Aamer was married with 3 children and a fourth was on the way. He has never met his youngest child. At Guantanamo, Shaker Aamer was a voice for his brother prisoners and tirelessly advocated for better treatment and release from their unjust imprisonment. Aamer embarked on many hunger strikes to protest their mistreatment and detention. Aamer was never charged with any wrongdoing and was cleared for release twice, once in 2007 and again in 2009. But jis release was delayed year after year. Many believe that the delay had to do with fears among U.S. and British officials that many truths about his imprisonment and that of others there would see the light of day. For example, the Guardian reported:

In 2010, officers from the Metropolitan police visited him at the US military jail in Cuba where they questioned his allegations of British security and intelligence agency complicity in his mistreatment. Aamer has said British officials were aware he was beaten at Bagram, the US prison in Afghanistan, before he was secretly flown to Guantánamo Bay and, on one occasion, a British intelligence officer was present when US interrogators banged his head against a wall.

According to the same article published in the Guardian after his return to the U.K., Aamer thanked and praised his supporters saying, “Without their devotion to justice I would not be here in Britain now. The reason I have been strong is because of the support of people so strongly devoted to the truth.

"If I was the fire to be lit to tell the truth, it was the people who protected the fire from the wind. My thanks go to Allah first, second to my wife, my family, to my kids and then to my lawyers who did everything they could to carry the word to the world. I feel obliged to every individual who fought for justice not just for me but to bring an end to Guantanamo.

"Without knowing of their fight I might have given up more than once; I am overwhelmed by what people have done by their actions, their thoughts and their prayers and without their devotion to justice I would not be here in Britain now.”

The Guardian newspaper announced on Oct. 31 that Shaker Aamer will seek damages from the British government for its complicity in his torture and illegal detention for over a decade. He will also request support in recovering from the unspeakable cruelties to which he was subjected. His lawyers anticipate a settlement so the government can avoid exposure of their complicity in crimes.

As Shaker stated, we have fought not only for his justice but to end Guantanamo. 112 men remain there so we will continue this fight. Now we need to work all the harder to bring others into this fight for justice.