27 Sep 2015

Shaker Aamer: last Brit in Guantanamo to be released

Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held at Guantanamo Bay, is to be released, a British Government spokesman said.

Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held at Guantanamo Bay, is to be released, a British Government spokesman said.

Mr Aamer has been in the military prison in Cuba since 2002 and has never been charged or on trial.

Since 2007 the Saudi national has been cleared from release from the detention camp twice by both George Bush and Barack Obama, but remained incarcerated.

Mr Aamer has permission to live in the UK indefinitely because his wife, with whom he has four children, is a British citizen.

The US government has notified the UK authorities that it intends to return Mr Aamer to Britain.

“The Government has regularly raised Mr Aamer’s case with the US authorities and we support President (Barack) Obama’s commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay,” the Government spokesman said.

An inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer is pictured during a protest at the American Embassy in February

The 46-year-old Saudi national was originally detained in Afghanistan in 2001 and was subsequently transferred to Guantánamo Bay.

Mr Aamer has maintained he was in the country with his family doing charity work.

“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.”

In the US a senior pentagon official confirmed that the US Secretary of Defence has approved the transfer of Guantanamo detainee Shaker Amer, following a thorough review of his case and security assurances from the British Government.

Successive British governments have pursued a policy of pressing for the release of UK nationals and residents held by the US at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility on Cuba.

David Cameron raised Mr Aamer’s case with Mr Obama when they met in January and the decision to return him to the UK him was discussed by the two leaders again in a phone call on Thursday.

Officials would not discuss under what conditions he was being released.

It comes after a campaign for Mr Shaker’s freedom to be granted intensified. On July 4 – Independence Day – a host of Hollywood stars, musicians and politicians called on Mr Obama to release him.

In an open letter to the US president, actors including Ralph Fiennes and Sir Patrick Stewart and musicians such as Peter Gabriel joined mounting calls for him to be freed.

London mayor Boris Johnson and comedian-turned-activist Russell Brand were also among more than 90 people who signed the letter, published in the Guardian, to coincide with the US public holiday.