For readers who have been following Cageprisoners’ exclusive new series, telling the stories of all the remaining prisoners in Guantánamo (174 at present), I’m pleased to announce that the fourth article in this eight-part series, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part Four: Captured Crossing from Afghanistan into Pakistan (2 of 2), which tells the stories of 19 men seized crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan in December 2001, has just been published.
I’d also like to point out that, in compiling the list, I have recently discovered that five stories that I was planning to include in this article should have been published in the second article, Who Are the Remaining Prisoners in Guantánamo? Part Two: Captured in Afghanistan (2001), and I have, therefore, amended that article, adding the stories of these five men: the British resident Shaker Aamer, Abdullah al-Shabli, a Saudi (ISN 240), Khaled Qasim, a Yemeni (ISN 242), Abdul Latif Nasir, a Moroccan (ISN 244), and Ahmed Kuman, a Yemeni (ISN 321).
All these stories are important, of course, and I hope that readers will take the time to read them, but as Shaker Aamer’s case is so important to Cageprisoners, featuring as one of our “Focus Campaigns,” I’m also posting Shaker’s story below.
ISN 239 Aamer, Shaker (UK-Saudi Arabia)
Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, was born in Saudi Arabia and, in 1996, moved to the UK after traveling in the US, Europe and the Middle East. He has a British wife, and four British children, the youngest of whom he has never seen. Aamer’s road to Guantánamo began when he, along with Moazzam Begg, took his family to live in Kabul, in June 2001, to work for a charity involved in humanitarian aid projects, including a girls’ school and various well-digging projects.
After the US-led invasion in October 2001, Aamer arranged for the evacuation of his family from Afghanistan, but was thwarted in his own attempts to leave. He was taken in by an Afghan family, but was then seized by Afghan soldiers, who held him and abused him for several weeks before handing him over -- or, more probably, selling him -- to US forces. After horrendous abuse in US custody in Afghanistan, including prolonged sleep deprivation and starvation, so that he lost 60 pounds in weight, he apparently made a number of false confessions used by the US to justify his detention, and was then transferred to Guantánamo, where he became one of the most significant prisoners, attracting the support of his fellow inmates, and the fear and suspicion of the authorities, because of his relentless advocacy on behalf of those held without rights in the “War on Terror.”
Charismatic and eloquent, he brokered a deal that brought a halt to the prison-wide hunger strike in the summer of 2005, but when the authorities reneged on their promise to make the prison more compliant with the Geneva Conventions, he was then imprisoned in solitary confinement for at least 18 months, and, ever since, has been held in a block reserved for prisoners regarded by the authorities as non-compliant or particularly influential.
Despite being cleared for release by a military review board under the Bush administration in March 2007, the British government claims that negotiations for his release to the UK have stalled because of security concerns on the part of the US authorities, but this seems implausible, as any security concerns could easily be addressed in the UK. Instead, it appears that Aamer is still held because of what he knows, including knowledge of the terrible events of June 9, 2006, when three prisoners died and, he has stated, he was tortured to within an inch of his life. His presence in the UK is vital to the inquiry into British complicity in torture announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in July, in part because he won a court case in the UK in December 2009, to secure information relating to his allegations that British agents were in the room when he was tortured by US forces, and the campaign to free him from Guantánamo continues.
Andy Worthington is a Senior Researcher for Cageprisoners. He is also the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press) and the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the new documentary, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.” Visit his website here.