Shaker Aamer, last UK resident held at Guantanamo Bay prison, returns home – CNN
“Without knowing of their fight I might have given up more than once; I am overwhelmed by what people have done by their actions, their thoughts and their prayers and without their devotion to justice I would not be here in Britain now,” he added.
“The reality may be that we cannot establish peace, but we can establish justice. If there is anything that will bring this world to peace, it is to remove injustice,” he said.
‘I want my dad back tomorrow’
It has been a long haul for Aamer’s family as well.
In 2005, his daughter Johina, then 7, wrote a letter to British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, asking him to help obtain her father’s release. She posted a copy of the letter on her Twitter account Friday.
“He used to love me when he was with us all,” she wrote. “We are all sad and depressed. We used to cry a lot for him. Sometimes my mum cries a lot on her bed or on her chair and on the floor and I don’t know how to stop her. She used to cry then I cried.
“I want my dad back tomorrow.”
UK officials welcome release
The British Foreign Office confirmed that Aamer was back in the UK.
“It has been a longstanding government policy to secure Mr. Aamer’s return to the UK,” a Foreign Office representative said. “We welcome his release and continue to support President Obama’s commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo.”
And Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, welcomed Aamer’s release as well.
“Great news,” Corbyn tweeted. “Huge congratulations to his family, Reprieve, Shaker campaign!”
An alleged confession
The United States has said that Aamer was an enemy fighter and an aide of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. He was allegedly in Afghanistan on a false British passport.
He also allegedly confessed before he was taken to Guantanamo Bay.
Aamer’s family and supporters say he was in Afghanistan doing charity work. And the confession, according to the London-based human rights group Reprieve, came under torture.
With no charges ever filed, and no evidence presented and tested at a trial, it is hard to judge between the competing allegations.
Allegations of U.S. torture
Aamer has contended that he was tortured by U.S. personnel in Afghanistan as British intelligence officials watched, and that his head was slammed against a wall so hard, it bounced. He has also said he was tortured and mistreated at Guantanamo Bay.
“When he arrived in Guantanamo Bay, he became a respected spokesman for the prisoners and was dubbed ‘The Professor’ by the U.S. military,” according to CAGE, an organization that says it works “to empower communities impacted by the War on Terror.”
“During the prison-wide hunger strike in July 2005, he became a leader on the prisoners’ council and successfully negotiated a settlement with the military before any of the prisoners died,” CAGE said.
“The authorities agreed to respect the Geneva Conventions and treat prisoners who have been neither charged nor convicted of any crime in a humane manner. However, the administration reneged on their promise shortly after and Shaker was returned to isolation and was forcibly made to ingest liquid food with tubes through his nostrils.”
Irene Nembhard, an attorney for Aamer, condemned his imprisonment.
“Shaker Aamer is an extraordinary man who determined for 14 years that he would return to Britain in the face of the determination of the most powerful of states that he would never do so,” Nembhard said in a statement.
“He achieved this by unimaginable, heroic, sustained courage, the strength of his character and of his faith being for years his only resource. No one knows and no words can describe torture, isolation, despair, even less for the length and intensity that he has endured.”
Wife and children live in UK
What is beyond doubt is that Aamer spent a long time in Guantanamo, even after being cleared for release in 2007.
According to Reprieve, the release process “required no fewer than six U.S. government agencies to agree that he posed no threat to the U.S. or its allies.” And Aamer spent another eight years in Guantanamo before that process was complete.
Aamer is a Saudi national who is a permanent resident of Britain. He is married to a British woman; his wife and four children live in Britain.
He was to see the youngest of his children for the first time Friday.