Saturday, December 18, 2010

Release Shaker Aamer!

By Theo Russell

New Worker supporters joined protesters marching from the site of the new US embassy in London, last Saturday, to call for the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British prisoner being in the Guantánamo Bay military prison camp, where he has languished for almost nine years without being charged.
Over 100 people gathered in Battersea and marched to the Battersea Arts Centre where a major rally took place in support of Saudi-born Shaker Aamer.
Aamer had lived in the borough with his British wife and three children, and a fourth child has been born since his detention. At the time of his capture, in Afghanistan, he had indefinite leave to remain in Britain and had applied for British citizenship.
The US government claims he was supporting the Taliban, but Aamer says he was doing charity work. He has written from Guantánamo: "I am dying here every day, mentally and physically. We have been ignored, locked up in the middle of the ocean for many years."
He claims – echoing similar allegations by US detainees and victims of kidnapping and rendition – that he was tortured in Afghanistan, including by US personnel, and while British officials were present.
Ray Silk of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign told the rally: "We are calling upon the UK and US Governments to make arrangements as soon as possible for his release."
Aamer’s case has been raised with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Foreign Secretary William Hague, most recently by Hague in Washington last week, but as yet no release date is in sight.
Following his latest meeting with Clinton, Hague said he had "reiterated our position that we would like to see this gentleman returned to the United Kingdom and that is under consideration by the United States".
In November Amnesty International's UK director, Kate Allen, wrote to Hague asking for him to make a public statement calling for Aamer to either be "charged and fairly tried or released," and for assurances that the UK would be willing to accept him on his release.
Allen pointed out that when the government announced its compensation package for former Guantanamo detainees last week, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said the UK wanted to 'draw a line' under cases involving detention and alleged abuse overseas, “yet Shaker Aamer is still languishing in a cell at Guantánamo".
"Dealing with what the government calls 'legacy issues' in the 'war on terror' must mean ensuring justice for Shaker. William Hague should make it a priority that he is returned to his family in Britain", she said.
The coalition government has made it clear that it wants to avoid lengthy court battles over compensation, which risked putting the role of Britain’s intelligence services under scrutiny.
Steve Bell, head of policy for the Communication Workers Union and national treasurer of the Stop the War Coalition, said at the rally that Barack Obama “issued an executive order to shut Guantánamo, and yet still Shaker Aamer cannot come home. There is no reason at all that he should be held. It is a scandal that he is being denied his basic human rights."
Although small in size, Saturday’s march was highly symbolic and attracted major media coverage, including on the BBC website and from Press TV. It certainly achieved its aim of putting Shaker Aamer’s case firmly back in the spotlight.

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