I’m delighted to receive the news that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba is to be released, although I must admit I’m slightly numb too. I’ve been hoping for this day — and working towards making it happen — for so long that it’s difficult to believe that it’s true.
But it is true. This afternoon, a British government spokesperson announced that the US government has notified them of the intention to release Mr. Aamer back to his family in the UK, and stated that the US government “has notified Congress of this decision and once that notice period has been concluded, Mr. Aamer will be returned to the UK.”
Under US law, the defence secretary, Ashton Carter, must sign off on any prisoner releases, certifying that all steps have been taken to ensure that it is safe to do so, and Congress then receives 30 days’ notice. As a result, Shaker may not be home until late October, but the announcement of his impending release is a clear cause for celebration.
Responding to the news, I said in a press release, as the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, established ten months ago to call for Shaker’s release via a campaign to get celebrities and MPs to stand with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker that was very well-received:
We are delighted to hear of Shaker Aamer’s imminent release, and would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard over the years to secure his release — his lawyers, the many MPs who took up his cause, the journalists who refused to look the other way, the many celebrities who have supported the We Stand With Shaker campaign over the last year and the many members of the public who have campaigned tirelessly to make sure he was not forgotten.
I also said:
We are delighted to have played our part in securing Shaker’s release. Thanks to all the MPs and celebrities who have stood with our giant inflatable figure of Shaker, and to all the members of the public, in the UK, the US and around the world, who have shown solidarity with Shaker’s plight.
My colleague Joanne MacInnes, the co-director of We Stand With Shaker said:
This is fantastic news. Year after year Shaker’s family have awaited his return, and been disappointed time and again. After so long, I’m delighted that his torture and long ordeal is nearly over, and he’ll be in the arms of his family very soon.
Note: If you’d like to make a small gesture in support of Shaker, please buy ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’, the song I wrote for Shaker and played with my band The Four Fathers, which I made available as a download just days before the announcement of Shaker’s imminent release. It costs just 80p ($1.25), but you can pay more if you want. I’m donating 25% of the money received to Shaker’s family. (You can also buy our album ‘Love and War’ here).