Shaker Aamer is a British resident with a British wife and children who has been imprisoned without trial by the US in Guantanamo Bay for over ten years.
Elham Asaad Buaras
Over 100,000 people have signed an official e-petition urging the Government to demand the release of the last British resident held in Guantánamo Bay detainee Shaker Aamer.
Aamer, who is a Saudi citizen, but whose wife and four children are British – is now in the eleventh year of his detention despite being cleared for release by the Bush Administration in 2007 and the Obama Administration in 2010.
Aamer campaigners say a debate in the House of Commons will galvanise the Government to demand for his release.
The UK Government initially refused to intervene on behalf of Guantánamo detainees who are legal British residents without being British citizens.
In August 2007, Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, requested the release of Aamer and four other men, based on their having been granted refugee status, or similar leave, to remain in Britain as residents prior to their capture by US forces. With the repatriation of Binyam Mohammed in 2009, all British citizens and residents other than Aamer have been released.
Aamer’s wife, Zinnia, said the petition “is another step forward towards his freedom.”
His children thanked “all 100,000 people who signed and showed support regardless of race and religion. We wish you all happiness and let’s hope that our Dad will be home soon so we can be happy too.”
Constituency MEP for London, Baroness Sarah Ludford said, “It is simply unacceptable that although Shaker was cleared for release in 2007, he has yet to be allowed back home…I believe that Shaker Aamer and his family have suffered enough – it is time for the last Londoner in Guantánamo to be brought home. It is high time that this issue is debated by MPs and now that the petition has received the support of 100,000 people I call on the Backbench Business Committee to arrange in Parliament a debate as soon as possible.”
News of the successful e-petition comes on the same week that troops clashed with inmates after they tried to relocate them to individual cells. The prisoners have been on hunger strike for three months over their indefinite detention and conditions.
Violence broke out on April 8 during a raid on prisoner cells, when troops tried to relocate some of them from a communal section of the facility known as Camp 6.
The guards responded by firing four “less-than-lethal rounds,” said Navy Capt Robert Durand.
Durand said there were “no serious injuries to guards or detainees” from the rounds, which included a modified shotgun shell that fires small rubber pellets.
The relocation from communal cells into isolation was being done in response to the prisoners’ covering or obscuring of “surveillance cameras, windows and glass partitions,” Durand said.
Lawyers representing the prisoners said they began a hunger strike last month in protest against their indefinite detention and what they believed were tighter restrictions and intrusive searches of their Qur’an.
“It’s just another example of force being used instead of a sense of human rights,” said military lawyer Lt Col Barry Wingard. “The sad thing is that it doesn’t appear to matter which political party is in power in Washington. The officials in GTMO always resort to force over common sense.”