Shaker Aamer was finally released from the US prison camp Guantanamo after almost 14 years of imprisonment without trial and no charges on Friday of last week.
One of his first acts was to call Joy Hurcombe, the chair of Save Shaker Aamer Campaign (SSAC), to say thank you to those who fought for his freedom.
Shaker said “I am well aware of how much the campaign did, standing out on the streets in rain and shine. I thank you all for what you did to keep my hopes alive.”
Joy told Socialist Worker that Shaker wanted to thank supporters for the years of work they had done to keep his case on the agenda.
Shaker told her, “Many times I was afraid I might not come back. I almost gave up but you kept me going. Then I thought I’d better come back with all the work you’ve done for me!
“I thank you all for standing up for justice.”
Joy told Shaker, “It was your courage that kept us all going.” She told Socialist Worker she felt privileged to hear from him.
These are the first words heard from Shaker since 2013 when he was heard calling out from his cell to a US news team, “Let us die in peace, or tell the world the truth.”
Shaker has undergone medical checks after years of torture and hunger strikes in protest at his treatment.
He has only now met his youngest son Faris for the first time. Faris was born in 2002 on the day Shaker was taken into Guantanamo after being rendered by the US from Afghanistan.
He was flown back to Britain in a Gulfstream jets similar to those that the CIA used to render him.
Shaker was the last British resident held in Guantanamo. He had been working for an Islamic charity in Afghanistan when he was captured by bounty hunters and handed to the US.
The US claimed he was part of Al Qaida. But he has never been charged and the US admitted as long ago as 2007 that they had no evidence against him.
The fight to expose the truth about British state complicity in rendition, torture, and death in Guantanamo continues.
Joy said, “Much of the media are only now taking an interest in his case. But Socialist Worker has reliably over a long time featured Shaker’s story to help put pressure on for his release.”
Labour and Tory governments are responsible for the eight years it has taken to free him.
The British government is nervous about what Shaker may reveal about its complicity in the US torture programme. David Cameron declared “Everything to ensure public safety” had been done, implying that Shaker was a threat and would still be monitored.
Shaker should not be prevented from speaking out as a witness to torture and deaths in Guantanamo.
Imam Suliman Gani, another leading campaigner, told Socialist Worker, “The campaign needs to get stronger for the release of the other 112 prisoners and for the final closure of Guantanamo.”
Joy hoped the wide coverage his case was now receiving would add to the pressure. “Perhaps now more people will ask, why was Shaker held for so long, since the government knew he was being tortured?” she said.
“Was there any complicity by those in power to silence Shaker? We need answers and we are not going away until we get them!”