Monday, April 27, 2015

Saudi with UK residency likely to be released from Guantanamo soon

Shaker Aamer, a Saudi with residency status in Britain, is expected to be released from Guantanamo in June. He has a British wife and four children in London.
The UK has made repeated requests for Aamer's release. The 48-year-old Aamer is accused of having been a key recruiter and financier for Al Qaeda while in Britain and to have worked for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. However, he has been held in Guantanamo for 13 years without charge. A US government officialtold AFP that Aamer would be released along with up to 10 other detainees.
A new commander Rear Admiral Fernandez Ponds will take over the command of the facility in July. There are still 122 men held prisoner. 57 have been classified as "releasable" by a review committee, including Aamer. Obama promised to close the prison even during his first presidential campaign. Congress has continually blocked Obama's attempts to take actions that could lead to closing the base. The base is technically Cuban territory but has been leased from Cuba since 1903 at a cost of just over $4,000 annually but the Cuban revolutionary government has refused to cash the checks. Cuba considers the lease arrangement not binding. Recent normalization of relations with Cuba do not include the return of the base to Cuba. Recently considerable investment and upgrades to the base have been made indicating the prison is not likely to close for some time even if the plan is to transfer the 57 cleared for release out of the facility Lieutenant Colonel Myles Caggins, a Pentagon spokesperson said: "The goal is to transfer all 57. We're going to support the president's mission of closing Guantanamo through transfers of detainees and prosecutions through military commissions,"The transfer of the ten in June would be after a thirty day notice period to the US Congress and then Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, would sign off on the transfer.
48 of those to be transferred are Yemenis who will not be repatriated in spite of continual protests for them to be returned to Yemen. With the present conflict in Yemen, the US will be even less likely to allow them back to Yemen. The US has had trouble finding host countries but Uruguay accepted a number and Oman, Estonia, Slovakia, and Georgia have also accepted prisoners. The one place you can be sure will not accept them is the United States which jailed them in the first place.
Campaigners in the UK for Aamer's release were heartened by the news but noted that Aamer had been cleared for release eight years ago by the Bush administration and then again under Obama in 2009 but nothing has happened. Karla McLaren, of Amnesty International in the UK, noted: ‘These reports are obviously encouraging but we’ve been here before.There have been so many false dawns over the release of Shaker that we won’t believe it until a plane bringing him back actually touches down here in Britain. Guantanamo has always been a complete travesty of justice and whoever is in government must ensure... Shaker is returned to his family as soon as possible if he’s not going to be charged.’
Supporters of Aamer claim that he was detained in Kabul in 2001 while doing volunteer work for an Islamic charity. They say he was handed over to US military in exchange for money and then tortured at a secret "black site" prison. He denies accusations he helped finance Al Qaeda. Aamer wants to return to the UK but Washington wants to send him to Saudi Arabia. He fears he would be tortured there. Given that he has a wife and four children in the UK it surely makes sense to send him there. Aamer's lawyer say UK and US authorities want to silence Aamer who claims to have witnessed abuse in the presence of UK security official.The Daily Mail in the UK has long campaigned on behalf of Aamer. Aamer's family says that if he comes to the UK he will be quite willing to face a UK to answer any charges he is a dangerous extremist. Apparently, Washington does not want that either.
The Mail discovered documents that showed, David Milliband, when foreign secretary in the Labor government, had plotted to hand Aamer over to Saudi authorities if he were released while leading his UK family to believe he was trying to have him returned to them in Britain. It will be interesting to see where Aamer ends up, in the UK, or Saudi Arabia. Given past experience he may even end up staying in Guantanamo. The appended video deals with another detainee in Guantanamo who wrote and published a diary about his experiences in the facility well over 12 years.