Shaker Aamer's release from Guantanamo Bay delayed for 'purely political reasons'
The last British resident being held at Guantanamo Bay should be released to the UK by the end of this week or early next week, an advocacy group told Middle East Eye on Tuesday.
Shaker Aamer, a 46-year-old Saudi citizen who has been cleared for release since 2007, was due to be freed on October 25 after the expiry of a 30-day notice period given to Congress by US President Barack Obama.
However, he has not been released and remains behind bars at the US military base in Cuba, where he has been detained for the past 14 years.
Aamer's wife is a British national and lives in London with their four children, including a 13-year-old Aamer has never met, and British campaigners have led the campaign for his release.
Andy Worthington, co-director of We Stand With Shaker, said the latest delay in Aamer’s release was due to the presence of “outside personnel” at Guantanamo Bay.
Three Republican senators visited Guantanamo Bay over the weekend on a “fact-finding mission” and there are a group of journalists currently at the military base to attend a series of pre-trial hearings for suspects linked to the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
“We are hearing now that his [Aamer’s] release will be at the end of this week or early next week,” Worthington told MEE, adding that the journalists were expected to leave the base by the weekend.
Aamer's supporters say he was kidnapped by ransom hunters in Afghanistan in December 2001 and handed over to US forces who came to suspect him of being a recruiter and financier for al-Qaeda.
He has never been charged or put on trial since his arrest, and denies involvement in terrorism. He says he was in Afghanistan working for an Islamic charity with his family. He has consistently accused the US of torturing him and claims to have witnessed the torture of other prisoners at the Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan and Guantanamo.
Worthington said Aamer was likely aware of his impending release, as Guantanamo Bay officials must have told him about Obama’s 30-day notice to Congress that he is to be released.
“I don’t think anything is going to disrupt permanently the release of Shaker Aamer,” Worthington said. “But the question that we all have now is: how many delays can they come up with?”
Clive Stafford Smith, Aamer’s lawyer, told the Mail on Sunday that his client “is being held for purely logistical and political reasons now, which is dreadful”.
“They have had 30 days to prepare [for his release] - it only took 28 days after 9/11 to start a war in Afghanistan,” Stafford Smith said.
Conservative MP David Davis recently told Middle East Eye that Aamer’s case is representative of a skewed relationship between the UK and US. Davis was part of a group of MPs that went to Washington earlier this year to lobby for Aamer's release.
The Shaker Aamer All-Party Parliamentary Group is meeting on Tuesday afternoon where MPs will discuss how to speed up Aamer’s release. A statement by the group will be issued on Wednesday morning.