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Guantanamo's Last British Resident

Shaker Aamer was arrested in Kabul while setting up schools for Muslim girls. According to his campaign headed by Joy Hurcombe he was tortured under the eyes of British intelligence before being sent to Guantanamo. Laura Hughes hears her story.

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Shake Aamer will have been imprisoned without trial for 11 years this October
Shake Aamer will have been imprisoned without trial for 11 years this October

Shaker Aamer has been held in Guantanamo Bay for over 11 years without charge. Shaker has never received a trial and was cleared for release in 2007 and 2010. Last week Frankie Boyle, who in December donated £50,000 towards Aamer's defamation case against MI5 and MI6, went on hunger strike in solidarity with Guantanamo's last British resident.

Joy Hurcombe has dedicated her life to the SAVE SHAKER campaign, fighting for Shaker to be returned to Britain, and against what she believes is 11 years of illegal imprisonment. Shaker faces "literally no charges, and America has admitted the allegations have no so value, because of the way they were obtained. Which was under torture from other detainees. The stuff in their files is drivel."

Joy tells me, "he's amongst 86 of 66 people who have been cleared for release. We don't understand. If you clear someone for release you would assume they would be free. Obama hasn't had the political will to actually enact his executive powers, and he has blamed Congress, because it is full of Republicans. But really its him not having the political will to follow through."

Shaker is not political, but due to his situation, he has taken a stance against the situation of both himself and fellow detainees. "Shaker just wants to be with his family. He was never involved in politics, he just wanted to be a good Muslim, and that's why he was involved in charity work in Afghanistan, setting up girls' schools in Kabul when it was bombed. He was there in the summer of 2001. Then 9/11 happened, in October the bombing started and he went into hiding, sending his family onto safety before he was arrested. After being sold to soldiers in Afghanistan, Shaker was transferred to US forces."

Desperate to end his torture at Bagram Airforce Base, Shaker told the US what they wanted to hear, and the military transferred Shaker to Guantanamo Bay in February 2002. The US military Joint Task Force Guantanamo believed in November 2007 that Aamer had led a unit of fighters in Afghanistan, and that his family was paid by Bin Laden. Shakers' lawyer and campaign allege MI5 and MI6 were present as he was tortured.

"Shaker is suing them because they were witness to torture in Afghanistan. If you are tortured you eventually break, prisoners were saying yes to things that they hadn't done, just to stop the torture... most of what was said they hoped would be disproved by their government." In 2004, the Tipton Three, ex-detainees who had been cleared and returned to Britain, alleged that false confessions were extracted from them under duress, in conditions that amounted to torture. "Clearly their lawyers were able to prove that under torture you will confess.. but that these 'confessions' are valueless. These men face no charges but America hasn't had the will to address these issues."

Joy tells me the situation is no longer stagnant, and Shaker has reportedly been threatened with transfer to Saudi Arabia, a country he left 30 years ago. Shaker reported to his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, that Saudi government officials recently visited him and warned him he faces prison on his return to the country. Joy believes M15 and M16 may have lobbied for Shaker to be transferred to Saudi Arabia. Where he would be silenced.

Guantanamo inmates have been on hunger strike for the past seven months, "the prisoners themselves know that they remain in legal limbo. They are on hunger strike because they want to make things start to happen. They would rather die than live without hope. The media says some of them have overcome the strike, but that is not true. The strike is a camp-wide strike."

Joy tells me Frankie's own hunger strike has had "an effect, as he has 1.5 million [Twitter] followers. As for the money donated towards the defamation case... these cases take a very long time. It's good for publicity, and it shows that the government may lose, and so they might have to release them. In defamation cases you have to prove that you are right."

There have recently been cries in Congress amongst high level Senators, such as Dianne Feinstein, who "are really pushing for movement in Guantanamo, and there are some laws which could be used - executive power and waivers, which are built into the national defense organisation. It is built into these acts that they can issue waivers." US Secretary of Defence, Chuck Hegel, can issue a waiver saying that they could leave Guantanamo, if they can certify the prisoners are going to a country where they are going to have enough security and that they can trust are save enough to prevent those released engaging in any future acts of terrorism.

The campaign to set him free claim that British intelligence agents were present as he was tortured.
The campaign to set him free claim that British intelligence agents were present as he was tortured.

"Today I heard that they are actually using the waiver in the act, and two prisoners are going to be transferred to Algeria, which I am not pleased about. Algeria is country of concern with a repressive government. However its good news that they are using the waiver, and we can use this to ensure countries like the UK have the appropriate security provisions and a secure environment for those returning from Guantanamo. The government should use the waiver to get shaker back. We think that they would rather he was returned to Saudi Arabia. It's very worrying."

We moved onto what Shaker's case tell us about the power of Britain's security services. "I think they are in control. I hate to say it but I don't think we are in control of our secret services." Joy tells me that they are lobbying for Shaker not to be returned to the UK. Why? "Because their agents have clearly been named. They allowed for people to be tortured, and asked if it was OK for them to witness torture.

"These agents were told by government officials in 2004 that they shouldn't worry about it, and that they could turn a blind eye. So they are embarrassed by the fact that they allowed torture to be performed in their knowledge. Because under international law, if you know of any torture you should expose it. So obviously this would come out - or the fact that the government under Blair agreed to use torture to get information, and that they have been complicit.. whether they are now I don't know because you aren't told. They are just following orders. There is no evidence that the information obtained under torture has any value. Torture doesn't actually achieve the results, and in fact it is probably the least effective means of obtaining information. Torture is prohibited under international law... no circumstances allow you to torture. It is very very clear."

The UK have reportedly requested his return to the UK, so is the government doing enough? "I doubt it. We think that the UK aren't telling the truth when they say they are encouraging the US to return shaker to Britain."

Shaker's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, commented, "The US and UK intelligence services appear to be working together to ensure Shaker stays where he is or gets shipped off to Saudi Arabia. Shaker knows too much. Given that he could appear as a witness against the perpetrators of some the UK's dirtiest secrets over their role in the 'war on terror', it is far better for the intelligence services if he is sent away to another prison in Saudi Arabia."

Joy believes America will keep the Guantanamo base open because, "they might need it, despite its current redundancy (they haven't sent anyone there since 2008.) The campaigner believes America might instead ship people off to supermax prisons in the States, "which may be worse as we wouldn't know where they were. And we wouldn't be able to campaign." I am told there are 60 detainees who are going to kept there indefinitely, "which is absolutely outrageous. They haven't any evidence to try them, but they don't want to release them. Ridiculous as they were probably only foot soldiers in the Torah Bora."

There is no clear reason for Shaker's continued imprisonment. He has already been granted indefinite leave to remain, and he has a long terms residency which has been acknowledged by the government. "He has British family and a British home and it's absolutely shameful that he's not allowed to have his family life. Students can help with the campaign. "Join our demos, we were outside every day of the last parliamentary sessions. We will be there every Wednesday when parliament is called back. Demanding that the government act to bring Shaker home."

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1 Comment

Anonymous Posted on Saturday 28 Nov 2020

You all have your facts on this guy all wrong. Setting up schools for girls? That's comical.


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