The last British resident in Guantanamo Bay has now been released and is on his way back to the UK. Shaker Aamer, a Saudi national who has indefinite leave to stay in the UK thanks to his British wife, will arrive in Britain early this afternoon, having been detained in Cuba for 13 years.
Mr Aamer was first detained in Afghanistan in 2001, accused by the US authorities of leading a unit of Taliban fighters and meeting with Osama bin Laden. He was transferred to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay in 2002, but has never stood trial.
Mr Aamer, who left London to take his wife, Zin Siddique, and three of his children with him to Afghanistan, insists that the family was in the country to run a charitable school.
Kate Allen, Amnesty International’s UK director, said that after “so many twists and turns” she would not believe that Mr Aamer had been released “until his plane touches down on British soil”.
“We should remember what a terrible travesty of justice this case has been, and that having been held in intolerable circumstances for nearly 14 years Mr Aamer will need to time to readjust to his freedom,” she said.
Cori Crider, Shaker’s US attorney said: “We are, of course, delighted that Shaker is on his way back to his home and his family here in the UK. It is long, long past time. Shaker now needs to see a doctor, and then get to spend time alone with his family as soon as possible.”
Fellow Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, who recently likened Islamists “to suffragettes” also greeted the news with joy, tweeting his “heartfelt thanks to everyone who fought for him”.
Shaker Aamer will finally be returned today, after 14yrs without charge at Gtmo. Heartfelt thanks to everyone who fought for him. الله اكبر
— Moazzam Begg (@Moazzam_Begg) October 30, 2015
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also tweeted in support of Mr Aamer, commenting “Great news. Huge congratulations to the family.”
Great news. Huge congratulations to his family, Reprieve, Shaker campaign! Shaker Aamer released from Guantánamo Bay https://t.co/p1UJPoucEK
— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) October 30, 2015
But others on Twitter were less enthused.
I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason why Shaker Aamer felt he needed a false Belgian passport to do “charity” work in Afghanistan in2001
— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) October 30, 2015
Aamer is now in line for a £1 million payout from British taxpayers in compensation for being detained.