Open letter to Barack Obama requesting the return of Shaker Aamer to the UK
More than 90 signatories including politicians, celebrities and activists – such as Boris Johnson, Russell Brand and Natalie Bennett – challenge the US president to release last British Guantánamo prisoner
Friday 3 July 2015 19.19 BST Last modified on Saturday 4 July 2015 00.09 BST
Former UK ministers urge Obama to free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo Bay
Dear President Obama,
On the day that the United States celebrates its independence, we the undersigned ask you to facilitate the transfer from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and his return to his family in the UK – his British wife and his four British children.
The majority of us are British citizens, and it has not escaped our notice that, while the US is celebrating its freedom, and its foundation under the rule of law, the continuing detention of men at Guantánamo – largely without charge or trial – continues to undermine America’s notion of itself and its international standing.
The US authorities have given no indication over the years that they have any intention to charge Shaker Aamer with any criminal offence. Indeed, he is one of 51 men still held who have long been approved for release from Guantánamo after interagency reviews. In his case, he has twice been approved for release from the base – in 2007, under President Bush, and again, in 2010, by your Guantánamo review task force.
We note that the British prime minister, David Cameron, has asked you to release him, that the British government supported a parliamentary motion calling for his release in March, and that a cross-party delegation of MPs visited Washington, DC in May to seek to establish a timeline for his release. Although they met senators, and the envoys for Guantánamo closure, no one was able to tell them when Mr Aamer would be released.
We cannot understand the difficulty involved in releasing him to the UK, a close ally of the US, including on counter-terrorism. The MPs noted in an op-ed in the New York Times on 8 June: “There is simply no reason, domestic or international, for the United States to keep Mr Aamer in custody.”
The MPs also stated: “It is difficult for us to shake off the depressing notion that the Obama administration is indifferent to the repeated requests of the British government. It is a slap in the face for America’s staunchest friend.”
Just three weeks ago, the US attorney general, Loretta Lynch, visited the UK to take part in a ceremony marking the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, the document that introduced habeas corpus to the world. The right not to be imprisoned without a fair trial has become the centrepiece of respect for the rule of law all around the world, and yet, when Ms Lynch stated at Runnymede that the fundamental principles of the Magna Carta have “given hopes to those who face oppression” and have “given a voice to those yearning for the redress of wrongs,” it was impossible not to think of Shaker Aamer, and others in Guantánamo, also “yearning for the redress of wrongs,” but finding that yearning repeatedly unfulfilled.
As we congratulate you on the celebration of your country’s independence, we also urge you to address the ongoing and unjustifiable detention of Shaker Aamer without further delay.
Clive Stafford Smith, founder, Reprieve
Kate Allen, director, Amnesty International UK
Shami Chakrabarti, director, Liberty
Dr Shuja Shafi, secretary general, Muslim Council of Britain
Patrick Stewart, actor
Ralph Fiennes, actor
Russell Brand, comedian, activist, actor
Roger Waters, musician, ex-Pink Floyd
Peter Gabriel, musician
Juliet Stevenson, actor, CBE, Olivier Award winner
David Morrissey, actor and director
Richard E Grant, actor
Nick Davies, special correspondent, the Guardian
Sophie Ellis-Bextor, singer
Sir Richard Eyre, theatre and film director
David Hare, playwright, two Tony Awards, two Academy Award nominations
Ken Loach, film director
Mike Leigh, film director and writer
Frankie Boyle, comedian
Sara Pascoe, comedian
Mark Rylance, actor, two Tony Awards
Maxine Peake, actor
Peter Oborne, journalist and author
Gillian Slovo, writer, Golden PEN Award winner
Lisa Appignanesi, OBE, writer
Susie Orbach, psychotherapist and writer
Michael Brearley, OBE, former England cricket captain
Natalie Bennett, leader, the Green party of England and Wales
Denis Halliday, former assistant secretary-general, United Nations
Anna Perera, author, Guantanamo Boy
Julie Hesmondhalgh, actor
Dr David Nicholl, neurologist, human rights activist
Lindsay German, convener, Stop The War Coalition
Sir Iqbal Sacranie, chairman, board Of trustees, Balham Mosque
Shaykh Suliman Ghani, imam, Tooting Islamic Centre
Peter Tatchell, human rights activist
Moazzam Begg, human rights activist
Rhys Ifans, Bafta award-winning actor
Janet Ellis, actor, TV presenter, author
Jeremy Hardy, comedian and presenter
Charlie Winston, platinum-selling musician
Benjamin Zephaniah, poet and author
Harriet Walter, actor, DBE, cast member of Death Of A Salesman
Guy Paul, actor, cast member of Death Of A Salesman
Miranda Nolan, actor, cast member of Death Of A Salesman
Alex Hassell, actor, cast member of Death Of A Salesman
Emma King, actor, cast member of Death Of A Salesman
Brodie Ross, actor, cast member of Death Of A Salesman
Prince Stefano Massimo di Roccasecca dei Volsci
Boris Johnson MP, mayor of London, (Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip)
John McDonnell MP (Labour, Hayes and Harlington, co-chair, Shaker Aamer parliamentary group)
David Davis MP (Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden, co-chair, Shaker Aamer parliamentary group)
Andrew Mitchell MP (Conservative, Sutton Coldfield, officer, Shaker Aamer parliamentary group)
Jeremy Corbyn MP (Labour, Islington North, officer, Shaker Aamer parliamentary group), Labour leadership candidate
Andy Slaughter MP (Labour, Hammersmith, officer, Shaker Aamer parliamentary group), Shadow Justice Minister
Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton Pavilion, officer, Shaker Aamer parliamentary group)
Sir Alan Duncan MP (Conservative, Rutland and Melton)
Ann Clywd MP (Labour, Cynon Valley)
Andrew Smith MP (Labour, Oxford East)
Andrew Tyrie MP (Conservative, Chichester)
Clive Lewis MP (Labour, Norwich South)
Diane Abbott MP (Labour, Hackney North and Stoke Newington, mayoral candidate for London)
Dominic Grieve MP (Conservative, Beaconfield), former attorney general
Gareth Thomas MP (Labour Co-operative, Harrow West, mayoral candidate for London)
Gavin Shuker MP (Labour, Luton South)
Sir Gerald Kaufman MP (Labour, Manchester Gorton)
Hywel Williams MP (Plaid Cymru, Arfon)
Ian Murray MP (Labour, Edinburgh South), shadow secretary of state for Scotland
John Pugh MP (Liberal Democrat, Southport)
Kate Hoey MP (Labour, Vauxhall)
Keir Starmer MP (Labour, Holborn and St Pancras) former attorney general
Kelvin Hopkins MP (Labour, Luton North)
Mark Durkan MP (SDLP, Foyle)
Neil Carmichael MP (Conservative, Stroud)
Sir Peter Bottomley MP (Conservative, Worthing West)
Rebecca Long Bailey MP (Labour, Salford and Eccles)
Roger Godsiff MP (Labour, Birmingham Hall Green)
Sadiq Khan MP (Labour, Tooting, mayoral candidate for London)
Stephen Timms MP (Labour, East Ham)
Tania Mathias MP (Conservative, Twickenham)
Tom Brake MP (Liberal Democrat, Carshalton and Wallington)
Yasmin Qureshi MP (Labour, Bolton South East)
Jean Lambert MEP (Green, London)
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC (Labour, House of Lords)
Baroness Jenny Jones (Green, House of Lords)
Lord Hylton (crossbench, House of Lords)
George Galloway, mayoral candidate for London
Tessa Jowell, mayoral candidate for London
Joanne MacInnes, co-director, We Stand With Shaker
Andy Worthington, co-director, We Stand With Shaker
Joy Hurcombe, chair, Save Shaker Aamer campaign
Looks like Shaker Aamer will be coming home in time for the next terrorist bombing in mainland UK.
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UK Guantanamo detainee Shaker Aamer to be released
25 September 2015
From the section UK
The last British resident being held in Guantanamo Bay is to be returned to the UK, the government has said.
Shaker Aamer, 46, who has been in the military prison in Cuba since 2002, has never been charged or been on trial.
Since 2007 the Saudi national has been cleared for release twice by presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama.
He has permission to live in the UK indefinitely because his wife is a British national. They have four children and live in London.
"The government has regularly raised Mr Aamer's case with the US authorities and we support President Obama's commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay," the government spokesman said.
"In terms of next steps, we understand that the US government has notified Congress of this decision and once that notice period has been concluded, Mr Aamer will be returned to the UK."
'Travesty of justice'
Mr Aamer was detained in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2001. US authorities allege he had led a unit of Taliban fighters and had met former al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden.
But Mr Aamer has maintained he was in Afghanistan with his family doing charity work.
Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg told the BBC: "He has been subject to almost 14 years without charge or trial in Guantanamo.
"No amount of therapy and so forth will be able to replace those years and so I think this will be a harder struggle for Shaker Aamer to deal with than the actual imprisonment."
By BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner
The release of Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo Bay prison after 13 years there without trial follows a lengthy campaign for his release by numerous high-profile figures on both sides of the Atlantic.
Mr Aamer was picked up in Afghanistan in late 2001 on suspicion of playing a leading role in an al-Qaeda cell but his supporters say he was sold into captivity by bounty hunters.
He was then "rendered" from one detention centre to another, transferred to Cuba and never formally charged.
His lawyer says he is innocent and he was twice cleared for release by US presidents, in 2007 and 2009.
Once he arrives in Britain he is likely to be subject to some oversight by the authorities, part of the deal for his release.
But after his long incarceration without trial, during which he says he was tortured, he will be under pressure to tell his story.
Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said the news was a "huge relief" for Mr Aamer's family and supporters, who have "worked tirelessly" for his release.
"Let's not forget that his 13-year ordeal at Guantanamo has been an absolute travesty of justice," she said.
"Shaker Aamer is the last UK resident to finally get out of Guantanamo and his return to Britain brings a long, painful chapter to a close."
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