On Monday, in the hope of drawing MPs’ attention to the ongoing disgrace of the detention at Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, with the support of Peace Strike, organised a demonstration in Parliament Square, to greet MPs as they returned from their Easter break, and also to continue to publicise the e-petition to the British government calling for his release from Guantánamo and his return to the UK, which needs 100,000 signatures by May 14 to qualify for a discussion in Parliament.
Please click on the images for full-size versions, and for further information about Shaker Aamer, see my recent articles, EXCLUSIVE: "They Want Me to be Harmed": Shaker Aamer, the Last British Resident in Guantánamo, Describes His Isolation, "I Affirm Our Right to Life": Shaker Aamer, the Last British Resident in Guantánamo, Explains His Peaceful Protest and Hunger Strike and Videos: Shaker Aamer’s Children Call for His Return from Guantánamo to the UK, and Ask Supporters to Sign Petition to British Government.
Describing the protest, Aisha Maniar of the London Guantánamo Campaign explained in a report for Indymedia:
Shaker Aamer, a Saudi national, with a British family in south London, including a ten-year old son he has never met, has been held in Guantánamo Bay, without charge or trial, since February 2002. Cleared for release by the Pentagon in 2007, his return to the UK was sought by the British government that same year.
Why he continues to languish at Guantánamo Bay is unclear; the British and American governments both blame each other, without giving a plausible reason for his continuing imprisonment. He claims a British intelligence agent was present on one occasion when he was tortured in Afghanistan; this claim is currently subject to a police investigation. He is also alleged to have witnessed the torture and murder of three other prisoners at the hands of US soldiers in 2006.
These may be reasons for his release to be embarrassing — and perhaps why it might cause even more difficult questions to be raised concerning the activities of both the US and UK governments — but that is a particularly disgraceful reason for him to be held indefinitely. However, as Aisha also noted, when "[c]ommenting on the continuing political impasse," I stated that "there is no drive by the UK or the US to close Guantánamo Bay, and thus there is no impetus to release Shaker Aamer. This needs to come from direct public pressure."
In discussing the e-petition, I also spoke about how securing 100,000 signatures would enable us to ask the Prime Minister, David Cameron, "to explain the inexplicable: why Shaker Aamer remains in Guantánamo Bay when apparently no one wants him to be there."
I’m also glad to note that, prior to my arrival, the protestors were joined by the MPs John McDonnell (Lab, Hayes & Harlington) and Jane Ellison (Con, Battersea), who is the MP for the constituency where Shaker Aamer’s family lives, and that afterwards, John McDonnell tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling for the release of Shaker Aamer, which states:
That this House welcomes the demonstration in Parliament Square held on 16 April 2012 by the Save Shaker Aamer campaign to highlight the fact that British resident Shaker Aamer has been imprisoned without trial or charge for over 10 years in Guantánamo; and calls for a new initiative by the Government to secure his release and his return to his British family in the UK, given the worrying concern that his health is now seriously deteriorating to the point that his lawyers have stated that he is gradually dying in Guantánamo.
Please write to your MP and ask them to sign the EDM, via the rather cool link below:
The final element of the campaign that emerged this week was a decision to try and cause a Twitter storm on Thursday evening between 9 and 10 pm UK time. The Facebook page is here, and the message is simple:
We need to act NOW and urge each and everyone of you to participate in this twitter campaign. Get #Freeshaker trending, Thursday 19th April, 9pm.
So that’s it for now. Please sign the petition, please circulate it, and please Tweet #Freeshaker on Thursday between 9 and 10 pm. And please also add to your Tweets: "Sign the petition: www.freeshaker.com," as that is the redirect for the e-petition.
Note: And if you’re not from the UK and are feeling left out (because only British citizens and residents can sign the e-petition), then please sign and publicize the international petition on the influential Care 2 Petition Site.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, "The Complete Guantánamo Files," a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo" (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new "Close Guantánamo campaign," and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.