Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantanamo Bay, was released on Friday after being detained without charge for almost 14 years.
On September 25th, U.S. and U.K. authorities confirmed that Aamer was to be returned to the U.K. within days. The release comes after Aamer endured well over a decade of torture, detention without charge or trial, and solitary confinement.
Aamer’s high-profile case has highlighted everything that is wrong with the war on terror — detention without charge or trial, government complicity in torture and lack of accountability for war crimes, gross obstruction of justice, and the humiliating and dehumanising treatment of detainees.
A keen community worker and U.K. resident, Aamer is married to a British woman and four British children living in London. He was volunteering for a charity in Afghanistan in 2001 when he was abducted and sold for a bounty to U.S. forces. He was tortured, eventually cracking and agreeing to his captors’ accusations against him. Satisfied with the confession of an abused and broken man, U.S. forces took him to Guantánamo Bay on Valentine’s Day 2002.
In a September Daily Mail piece entitled “Torture and the man who could expose Britain’s dirtiest secrets,” journalist Peter Oborne said, “My view is that Mr Aamer may have paid the price for knowing too much. The CIA had very good reason to be terrified of what he might reveal when he emerged from jail.”
Writer and investigative journalist Andy Worthington is the co-founder of Close Guantanamo and the co-director of the We Stand With Shaker campaign. After relentlessly battling for Aamer’s release, he was ecstatic at the news of his release:
A long-awaited day! There is, of course, no excuse whatsoever for someone to be held for nearly 14 years without charge or trial, and his long imprisonment was especially galling because he was approved for release by the U.S. authorities in 2007 and 2009 but, unacceptably, continued to be held year after year. We’re hoping he will be allowed to recover in peace, and, when he is ready, will also be allowed to speak in full about his experiences.
According to the Facebook page of ex-detainee Moazzam Begg, Shaker Aamer had these words to say when he arrived back in the U.K. on Friday afternoon:
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 reality may be that we cannot establish peace but we can establish justice. If there is anything that will bring this world to peace it is to remove injustice.
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