Muslim groups have welcomed Shaker Aamer’s release from Guantanamo Bay after 13 years without charge or trial, but have said that many questions still remain over British complicity in his incarceration.
Aamer – the last British resident to be held in Guantanamo Bay – landed in the UK earlier today. He was held at the US military base in Cuba over unsubstantiated allegations he had led a Taliban unit and had met Osama Bin Laden.
Downing Street said there were “no plans” to detain him after his arrival. Number 10 said Prime Minister David Cameron “welcomes” the release of Mr Aamer, who has permission to live in the UK indefinitely because his wife is British.
However, concern has been raised over the health of the Saudi national, 48, whose family live in London, and the BBC said it had seen an ambulance arrive at the airport where he landed
Mr Aamer’s father-in-law, Saeed Siddique, said his release was a “miracle”. “It’s a delightful day,” he told BBC News while admitting it was also a “surprise”.
Meanwhile, advocacy group CAGE said justice had finally been done.
CAGE Outreach Director and former detainee of Guantanamo Bay and Bagram prisons, Moazzam Begg said: “The day has finally arrived. Britain’s longest serving Guantanamo prisoner is coming home. Falsely imprisoned and tortured for 14 years without charge, Shaker Aamer has become a household name because he has endured what few others could only imagine. His family, friends, lawyers, campaigners and well-wishers have fought a battle to free an innocent man and finally, that battle has been won.
“Shaker’s greatest tests are yet to come – that is the heartbreaking part – and anyone who has been imprisoned away from their family can attest to this. A stranger becoming a father – not of children, but of young adults – is an unimaginable task that nobody has any expertise in, except perhaps a few Guantanamo prisoners scattered around the globe. However, Shaker is a courageous, resilient, kind and thoughtful person who has faced the worst the world has to offer and survived.
“His qualities have been acknowledged by his tormentors and I’m certain he won’t disappoint when he’s ready to tell his side of the story. Until he does, he deserves our respect, support, prayers, and right to family life and privacy.”
Cori Crider, Shaker’s US attorney, said that Shaker now needs to see a doctor and then get to spend time alone with his family as soon as possible.”
And the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) called on the UK government to come clean about Aamer’s claim that British police were aware that he was tortured under questioning at Bagram prison in Afghanistan.
“While Aamer’s release is undoubtedly fantastic news it should not divert us from the task of continuing our efforts to press for the closure of Guantanamo, a prison that has come to symbolise the worst excesses of the so-called war on terror. Over 100 detainees remain at the facility some almost 7 years after President Obama pledged to close it,” the IHRC said in a statement.
IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh added: “Thankfully, the ordeal of another inmate at this barbaric institution is over. However, the question remains as to why the facility continues to operate despite universal international condemnation. It is an affront to civilisation and must be closed immediately.”
US authorities first held Mr Aamer in Afghanistan in 2001 over the Taliban allegation and the claim he had met Bin Laden. However, Mr Aamer maintains he was in Afghanistan with his family doing charity work.
The Henry Jackson Society, a neo-con think tank, said the security services “must monitor who Aamer associates with very carefully.”