Shaker Aamer: last Brit in Guantanamo Bay released

Aamer spent the past 13 years imprisoned without any charge or trial

Shaker Aamer
(Image credit: Reprieve)

Shaker Aamer, the last British prisoner held in Guantanamo Bay, was released today and is due to arrive in London.

Aamer, 46, was imprisoned 13 years ago after he was captured by bounty hunters in Afghanistan and handed over to US forces. He was subsequently taken to Guantanamo Bay, the US military prison in Cuba, where he has remained without charge or trial.

On 25 September, the Pentagon announced that it would repatriate Aamer to Britain, although there were doubts as to whether this would actually happen: he was previously cleared for release in both 2007 and 2010.

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But, speaking in Vienna yesterday, Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond confirmed Aamer's release and his arrival in England today.

According to US intelligence documents released on Wikileaks, Aamer was detained because he was a "close associate" of Osama Bin Laden and had connections to several other senior extremist members.

"Detainee has travelled internationally on false documents and is associated with al-Qaeda terrorist cells in the US. Detainee is a reported recruiter, financier, and facilitator with a history of participating in jihadist combat," the documents claimed.

However, The Guardian notes that Aamer "was never charged with any crimes and the US intelligence documents were widely discredited".

According to Aamer's lawyer, he was tortured during his time in prison, subjected to food and sleep deprivation, force-fed and held in a small, windowless cell and in solitary confinement.

In 2005, he went on hunger strike, which caused him to lose 50 per cent of his body weight. He now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as well as other medical problems, which have not been properly treated.

Aamer, his family and his lawyers have always denied his involvement with al-Qaeda. Although a Saudi citizen, he is a British resident, moving to the country in 1991 to work as a translator, and marrying a British citizen.

According to his father-in-law, Aamer moved with his family to Afghanistan in 2001 in search of a more "Islamic atmosphere" and to carry out charitable work.

He was captured months later by the Northern Alliance, an Afghani military front fighting the Taliban. According to his family, the Alliance believed the US would pay well for al-Qaeda prisoners and captured any man they found who could be made to look the part.

His imprisonment has been widely contested, and several key figures have campaigned for his release, including Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and singers Sting, Roger Waters and Peter Gabriel.

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The New York Times points out that Aamer's transfer comes one day after Mauritanian Ahmed Ould Abdel Aziz was also repatriated, bringing the number of Guantanamo prisoners down to 112.

Of these, only ten have been charged or convicted before a military commission system.

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