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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
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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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Reprieve welcomes release of Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo
September 25, 2015
Commenting, Clive Stafford Smith, Shaker Aamer’s lawyer, said: “This is great news, albeit about 13 years too late. But they only just gave notice to congress, so that means that without robust intervention Shaker and his family have to wait until October 25th at the earliest for their reunion. The UK must demand of President Obama that he should be on a plane tomorrow, so that Shaker’s family do not have to endure more of the agony of waiting, uncertain every time a phone rings.
British politicians may bombasticate about our ‘robust and effective systems to deal with suspected terrorists’ but Shaker is not and never has been a terrorist, and has been cleared by the Americans themselves for 8 years. I hope the authorities will understand that he has been tortured and abused for more than a decade, and what he wants most is to be left alone with his family to start rebuilding his life.”
1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: + 44 (0) 207 553 8161 or in the USA 00 (1) 917 855 8064
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Shaker Aamer to seek damages after 14 years in Guantánamo Bay without trial
Freed prisoner’s legal team indicates action will be taken against British government over its alleged complicity in his mistreatment
Ian Cobain, Caroline Davies, Jessica Elgot and Ed Pilkington
Friday 30 October 2015 19.29 GMT Last modified on Saturday 31 October 2015 01.10 GMT
Shaker Aamer, the British resident finally set free after spending almost 14 years incarcerated at Guantánamo Bay, is to bring legal proceedings against the British government over its alleged complicity in his mistreatment.
The case will include a claim for damages from the UK’s security and intelligence agencies, whose officers interrogated him three times while he was at the US detention facility in Cuba and who are alleged to have been present while he was being tortured at a prison in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11.
Lawyers believe Shaker Aamer has strong claim against UK government
As the 48-year-old father-of-four landed back on UK soil, members of his legal team indicated to the Guardian that they expected the government to settle the claim as quickly as possible rather than suffer the embarrassment of seeing further allegations of the UK’s involvement in human rights abuses being aired in court.
Aamer may be questioned by a team of Metropolitan police detectives who have been investigating those abuses; his lawyers disclosed that members of the police team spent three days interviewing him at Guantánamo in 2013.
The last British detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Internee No 239, landed on board a Gulfstream IV jet at Biggin Hill airport in south-east London shortly before 1pm on Friday. The aircraft taxied to a hangar, its window blinds pulled down hiding the interior from view and offering no glimpse of any passenger to waiting media. Two members of Aamer’s legal team met him inside the airport.
In a statement, Aamer paid tribute to his supporters, saying: “Without their devotion to justice, I would not be here in Britain now.”
Thanking Allah, his family and lawyers, he said: “I feel obliged to every individual who fought for justice not just for me but to bring an end to Guantánamo.
“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.”
He left the airport in an ambulance and his first priority was to undertake a thorough medical checkup. Having spent prolonged periods of his detention on hunger strike, there were concerns about his health and he was examined by trusted doctors who offered to assist.
It was unclear when he was due to be reunited with wife, Zin Siddique, who was not at the airport and is said to be suffering from influenza, or their four children, the youngest of whom was born on the day he was transferred to Guantánamo and whom he has never met.
His father-in-law, Saeed Siddique, 73, a retired imam, described the day as “delightful” and “a miracle” but said he did not yet know when he would see Aamer.
He said Aamer was offered compensation during the latter stages of his detention, but did not disclose any details. “The important thing is the freedom. We wanted his freedom and money doesn’t matter,” Siddique said at his home in south-west London. “Justice came, but really late. Too late.”
Aamer’s British lawyers, Irene Nembhard and Gareth Peirce, described him as an “extraordinary man who determined for 14 years that he would return to Britain”.
Clive Stafford-Smith, director of Reprieve, who fought the detainee’s case, said Aamer planned to set up a charitable foundation. He did not want to exact revenge, said Stafford-Smith. “He hopes to start a foundation, the Shaker Aamer Foundation for Peace and Philanthropy to ensure people know the history and to ultimately campaign to make sure this never happens again.”
Aamer, who was born in Medina, Saudi Arabia, but is a British resident with his British wife and children living in London, was detained in Afghanistan in 2001.
He has said he was originally seized by bounty hunters while working as a charity worker in Afghanistan shortly after the 9/11 attacks and was handed over the US forces.
Although the US leaked claims – some extracted from the torture of other detainees – that Aamer fought for al-Qaida and was paid by Osama bin Laden, he was never tried for any offence and he denied the claims.
He has said British officials were aware – and, on one occasion, present – when he was being beaten by US interrogators. The Foreign Office has said it “did not accept allegations of ... complicity in his mistreatment”.
In 2007, the allegations against him were dropped and he was cleared for release, but he remained imprisoned.
In 2010, officials from six US government agencies – the Guantánamo Interagency Review Taskforce – recommended he should be freed from the military camp. Yet it took another five years for the defence secretary, Ashton Carter, to sign the “notification package” ordering his release, triggering a 30-day period which ended on Friday.
News of his release was confirmed on Friday morning by the foreign secretary, Philip Hammond.
Aamer was expected to go through standard immigration checks but it was not known if he would be questioned by counter-terrorism police or M15 officers. Given that ministers – including the prime minister, David Cameron – had campaigned for his release, he was unlikely to be detained on arrival.
Cameron, who raised Aamer’s case with Barack Obama in the White House in January and won an assurance that he would prioritise the issue, welcomed the release. Cameron’s official spokeswoman said: “It is a case that he has personally raised with the president. He also wanted to support the president’s efforts to close Guantánamo Bay.
“As soon as he is returned to the UK, he is no longer in detention. He is free to be reunited with his family. The prime minister has been clear that the public should be reassured that everything to ensure public safety is in place.”
Cori Crider, Aamer’s US lawyer and strategic director at Reprieve, said it would be up to his client “how much of his story and the terrible things he witnessed that he wants to tell”. She told Sky News he was a “very outspoken prisoner” and “woe betide the person who tries to silence Shaker Aamer”.
He can be expected to receive compensation, perhaps as much as £1m, as 15 other British residents and citizens did in 2010, in return for dropping a civil case for unlawful imprisonment. They abandoned their demands for evidence that they said would back their case that M15 and M16 were involved in their rendition to Guantánamo Bay.
In 2010, officers from the Metropolitan police visited Aamer at Guantánamo where they questioned his allegations of British security and intelligence agency complicity in his mistreatment. Aamer has said that a British intelligence officer was present on one occasion when US interrogators banged his head against a wall.
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, were among those who had called for his release. Corbyn said: “Now that Shaker has been released, the scandal of the Guantánamo detention camp itself must be brought to an end.”
Green party MP Caroline Lucas said the case “reinforced the urgent need for the judge-led inquiry into UK complicity in torture that the prime minister promised in 2010 but then backtracked on”.
Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the campaign group Liberty, said: “Why did it take us so many years to persuade our closest ally to behave decently? How many young Britons have been radicalised, at least in part, by kidnap, internment and torture in freedom’s name?”
But David Rivkin, a former White House legal adviser, said there was “plenty of evidence” that Mr Aamer was an “enemy combatant”. He told BBC 2’s Newsnight: “The fact he has not been charged does not signify anything. He was held as an enemy combatant.”
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