‘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.’
by Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams
Shaker Aamer, the last remaining UK prisoner in Guantánamo Bay prison, will be released and allowed to return home, a British government spokesperson announced Friday.
Aamer, 46, a Saudi citizen and UK resident, has been held at the U.S. military base in Cuba for 13 years without charge and has twice been cleared to go home. A report last month revealed that the Pentagon had been actively blocking his release, despite participating in one of the federal reviews that found he posed no threat to national security and could be returned home.
Reprieve attorney Clive Stafford Smith, who represents Aamer, said the most likely date for Aamer’s return is October 25, absent “robust intervention” by the UK government.
“This is great news, albeit about 13 years too late,” Smith said. “The UK must demand of President [Barack] 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,” Smith continued. “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.”
According to his lawyers, Aamer was abducted by bounty hunters in Afghanistan in 2001 and handed over to U.S. forces, who transferred him to Guantánamo Bay two months later. While there, he organized and participated in hunger strikes and other actions to draw attention to torture and mistreatment of detainees, including himself.
Amnesty International USA executive director Steven W. Hawkins said Friday that Aamer’s case is “a symbol of Guantánamo’s utter failure.”
“This is a man who was held without trial or charge for more than 13 years, alleges he was tortured repeatedly, was cleared for transfer twice, and the UK government has asked that he be transferred back to the United Kingdom, yet he still languished in detention from February 2002 until today,” Hawkins said.