The Obama administration has released the last British resident held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A native of Saudi Arabia and a Saudi national, Shaker Aamer landed in the United Kingdom on October 29 on a private jet. Aamer had been imprisoned for 13 years. His family lives in London. He landed at approximately 1 p.m. local time.
The 39-year-old Aamer was never charged by the U.S. for any terrorist activities, even though he was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 by bounty hunters seeking Saudi accomplices of Afghan terrorists. However, he was alleged to have been the leader of a unit of Taliban terrorists during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. For his part, Aamer has always maintained his innocence, having asserted that he was living in Afghanistan to do charitable work with his family.
While British Prime Minister David Cameron said he “welcomes” Aamer’s release, the U.S. once accused him of being a "member of al-Qaeda tied to the European support network" and a "close associate" of terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden himself. Aamer was first detained by American forces at the Bagram air base near Kabul. His attorneys claim that after being allegedly tortured, he made false statements in order to get relief. In 2002, he was transferred to Guantanamo where he remained until now. It is believed that there are still 112 detainees at Guanatanmo, which is on the Cuban mainland. Before his election in 2008, President Barack Obama promised to release all of them. So far, he has not been able to fulfill his promise. Some of those released so far are believed to have returned to terrorist activities.
Human rights advocates greeted Aamer’s release, saying that it was long overdue. One human rights campaigner said that Aamer will need lots of “TLC” once he returns to the UK. Andy Worthington, a co-director of We Stand With Shaker, said that the former detainee will need psychological and medical care possibly for post-traumatic stress disorder. Aamer’s wife is a British national, thus giving him the right to above in the UK indefinitely. The UK has no plans to imprison him. While the British secret services may monitor him, it cannot be confirmed since all of the activities of those services are classified.
Cori Crider, Aamer's lawyer in the U.S., said Aamer needs to "see a doctor and then get to spend time alone with his family."
In letters to the BBC, Aamer described himself as "an old car that has not been to the garage for years." He wrote, "I have known nothing about the real world for more than 13 years." During his time at Guantanamo, Aamer became known as an unofficial spokesman for other detainees, negotiating for special treatment from the U.S. military
The role of the United Kingdom in the second Iraq war, and the conflict in Afghanistan, remains a political football. So far, an investigation into the participation of British intelligence and military in the conflicts has not yet seen the light of day. Leftists and human rights campaigners still demand answers. David Davis, a member of parliament for the Conservatives, was quoted as saying "I am sure many more MPs, look forward to seeing what he has to say about his detention."
Despite welcoming words from Prime Minister Cameron, British security and law enforcement agencies may still have Aamer on their radar. When Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) called for Aamer’s release, she wrote on September 25, “I support the administration’s decision to transfer Shaker Aamer to the United Kingdom…The British government has strong counterterrorism laws and highly competent intelligence, security and law enforcement services, and I’m confident they can prevent Shaker Aamer from harming U.S. and British national security.
“In June, I received a letter from the British ambassador to the United States highlighting procedures that their policymakers and security services have developed to identify and stop Shaker Aamer from engaging in future terrorist activity.” She added that the British ambassador to the U.S. wrote to her this year, giving reassurances that the UK has “procedures to identify any re-engagement in terrorist activity at an early stage. They have a range of investigative options based on the nature and extent of the threat they judge any individual to pose.”
At the time of his capture, Aamer was believed to have been in contact with terrorists such as ‘shoebomber’ Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui. Both Reid and Moussaoui are in prison. Aamer was described by Saudi intelligence of being of particular interest, while the U.S. at first claimed that he had been involved in recruitment and financing for terrorism. By one account, he was in the company of Osama bin Laden when the U.S. bombardment of Afghanistan began. In 2007, the Bush administration said it had no evidence to implicate him.
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