Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Shaker Aamer thanks supporters after Guantanamo Bay release

Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held at Guantanamo Bay, has paid an emotional tribute to those who fought for his release after he finally returned to the UK, saying: "Without their devotion to justice I would not be here in Britain now."

The 46-year-old arrived on a private plane at Biggin Hill airport in south-east London after 13 years in detention at the US military facility in Cuba.

In a statement issued tonight, Mr Aamer said: "The reason I have been strong is because of the support of people so strongly devoted to the truth.

"If I was the fire to be lit to tell the truth, it was the people who protected the fire from the wind.

"My thanks go to Allah first, second to my wife, my family, to my kids and then to my lawyers who did everything they could to carry the word to the world. I feel obliged to every individual who fought for justice not just for me but to bring an end to Guantanamo.

"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.

"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."

Mr Aamer's British lawyers Irene Nembhard and Gareth Pierce said he is an "extraordinary man who determined for 14 years that he would return to Britain".

They said: "He achieved this by unimaginable, heroic, sustained courage, the strength of his character and of his faith being for years his only resource. He by the grace of God is now home and this is a new beginning."

Mr Aamer left the airport in an ambulance.

Saeed Siddique, his father-in-law, said justice had been done - "but too late".

Speaking from his home in Earlsfield, south-west London, the 73-year-old said no family members were present when Mr Aamer touched down - adding that his daughter Zin has been unwell with flu but is "delighted" about the prospect of being reunited with her husband.

He said: "She's really happy. I know his health condition is not very good. He has arthritis and kidney problems."

Mr Siddique said Mr Aamer had already been offered compensation during the latter stages of his detention, but did not disclose any details.

He added: "The important thing is the freedom. We wanted his freedom and money doesn't matter."

He added: "Justice came, but really late. Too late."

The Saudi national has said he was originally seized by bounty hunters while working as a charity worker in Afghanistan in 2001 shortly after the 9/11 attacks.

He was handed over to US forces and in February 2002 he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay and accused of aiding al Qaida.

But in 2007 the allegations against him were dropped and he was cleared for release.

Despite a formal request by then foreign secretary David Miliband, American authorities refused to allow him to go.

During his time in captivity, Mr Aamer's lawyers said he was tortured and held in solitary confinement for 360 days. In 2005, he lost half his body weight during a hunger strike.

Clive Stafford-Smith, of human rights group Reprieve, told the BBC: "His first priority is health. He really is in terrible shape.

"He told me he is like an old car who hasn't been to see a mechanic for a long time. He needs to get to a hospital.

Campaigners spoke of their concerns that the father-of-four will be tagged or monitored by security services upon his return.

Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, told the Press Association "the state cannot arbitrarily place restrictions upon him", adding: "My view is that he should now be given the space to spend time with his family and catch up on all he has missed while he has been detained."


From Belfast Telegraph