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Stars' July 4 plea to free Shaker

A host of Hollywood stars, musicians and politicians have called on Barack Obama to release Britain's last Guantanamo detainee on Independence Day.

In an open letter to the US president, actors including Ralph Fiennes and Sir Patrick Stewart and musicians such as Peter Gabriel have joined mounting calls to see Shaker Aamer freed.

British resident Mr Aamer, 46, has been detained without trial in the US maximum security prison in Cuba for 13 years despite being cleared for release in 2007.

London mayor Boris Johnson and comedian-turned-activist Russell Brand are also among more than 90 people who have signed the letter, published in the Guardian, to coincide with the US public holiday.

Earlier this year Mr Obama said he would "prioritise" his case after David Cameron raised the father of four's plight in high-profile talks.

His family and campaigners have made repeated calls for him to be released and reunited with his wife and children at their south London home.

Brand said: "Barack Obama, who inspired so much hope and has presided over so much pain and disappointment, in this single act of compassion can alter history. Shaker must be returned to his family, innocence must be respected, then perhaps hope can prevail."

Sir Patrick added: "Time to say, enough. This man deserves his liberty."

The letter, also undersigned by Labour leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn and the heads of civil rights groups Reprieve, Amnesty International and Liberty, urged an immediate end to his "unjustifiable detention".

It said: "The majority of us are British citizens, and it has not escaped our notice that, while the US is celebrating its freedom, and its foundation under the rule of law, the continuing detention of men at Guantanamo - largely without charge or trial - continues to undermine America's notion of itself and its international standing.

"We cannot understand the difficulty involved in releasing him to the UK, a close ally of the USA, including on counter-terrorism."

When US attorney general Lorretta Lynch attended the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta last month "it was impossible not to think of Shaker Aamer", the campaigners said.

"As we congratulate you on the celebration of your country's independence, we also urge you to address the ongoing and unjustifiable detention of Shaker Aamer without further delay," the letter, sent by the We Stand With Shaker campaign, concludes.

Mr Aamer was born in Saudi Arabia but his wife and four children are British citizens.

His youngest son Faris was born on the same day Mr Aamer arrived at Guantanamo - on Valentine's Day 2002 - and has never met his father.

Mr Aamer moved with his pregnant wife and young family to Afghanistan in 2001, where he says he was working for a charity.

But with coalition forces entering Afghanistan to drive out al Qaida after 9/11, Reprieve claims Mr Aamer was abducted and sold for a bounty to US forces.

He claims he has been beaten, tortured and starved of sleep and food inside Guantanamo.

Other signatories of the letter included Dr Shuja Shafi, secretary general of Muslim Council of Britain, actors Juliet Stevenson, Rhys Ifans and Richard E Grant, directors Ken Loach and M ike Leigh and comedian Frankie Boyle.

More than 30 MPs backed the call including two former attorney generals, Keir Starmer and Dominic Grieve, and the co-chairs of the cross-party Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group John McDonnell and David Davis.


From Belfast Telegraph