Freed Guantanamo detainee back in UK after 13 years

Freed Guantanamo detainee back in UK after 13 years
The last British resident in Guantanamo Bay, Shaker Aamer, arrived in London on Friday having earlier been freed from the US military prison in Cuba.
3 min read
30 October, 2015
Aamer has been in Guantanamo Bay detention centre for 13 years [Getty]

Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantanamo Bay, arrived in London on Friday having earlier been freed after spending over 13 years at the US military prison in Cuba, British media reported.

Britain's government earlier confirmed that Aamer was on his way home, and a flight from Guantanamo Bay landed at London's Biggin Hill airport at 12.57 pm (1257 GMT).

     The United States accused Aamer of acting as a recruiter, financier and fighter for al-Qaeda, but never charged him or put him on trial

The United States accused 46-year-old Saudi national Shaker Aamer of acting as a recruiter, financier and fighter for al-Qaeda, as well as being a close associate of Osama Bin Laden, but never charged him or put him on trial.

British Prime Minister David Cameron's office said Thursday there were no plans to detain him on arrival.

"As soon as he is returned to the UK he is no longer in detention. He is free to be reunited with his family," said Cameron's official spokeswoman.

Cameron personally raised Aamer's case with US President Barack Obama when the pair met in January.

The father of four, who was twice cleared for release from the camp in 2007 and 2009, denied the allegations and said he was in Afghanistan working for a charity.

Aamer's father-in-law Saeed Siddique called it "a delightful day for all of us."

"It's really a miracle," he told the BBC.

"Everybody is looking forward to seeing him, especially after all this time. But it won't be necessarily today."

Aamer's US lawyer Cori Crider, who is also strategic director at prisoners' rights group Reprieve, 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."

"We hope... he gets the psychological and medical care that he needs to be able to resume his life with his family in London."

'Terrible travesty'

According to flight-tracking website FlightAware, a Gulfstream jet departed Guantanamo Bay and was due in London in the early afternoon.

Aamer was born in Saudi Arabia in December 1968, and lived in the United States before settling in Britain, where he married a British woman and, in 1996, became a resident.

In 2001, he took his family to Afghanistan, but sent them to Pakistan after the September 11 attacks. He said he was about to join them when he was detained.

Aamer claims to have suffered sleep deprivatiom, beatings and humiliation at the hands of American troops while being held at the notorious Bagram Prison north of Kabul.

He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay on February 14, 2002 - the day his youngest child was born - where he said the maltreatment continued, leading him to become an advocate for prisoners' rights and an organiser of hunger strikes.

He remained on hunger strike as Obama's administration announced last month that he was to be freed, leading his family to fear they would not see him again.

A medical examination ordered by his lawyers in December 2013 revealed Aamer was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, as well as migraine headaches, asthma and kidney pain.

Rights goup Amnesty International, which took up Aamer's cause, called his detention "intolerable".

"We should remember what a terrible travesty of justice this case has been," said UK director Kate Allen said.

"Having been held in intolerable circumstances for nearly 14 years, Mr Aamer will need to time to readjust to his freedom."

British Pakistani Moazzam Begg, who was detained in Guantanamo for nearly three years, wrote on Twitter: "Many questions re UK complicity in #ShakerAamer torture & Iraq war link but for another day. Today celebrate his release."