UK

Guantanamo: Shaker Aamer could be 'released within weeks'

Shaker Aamer Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Aamer has been detained for 13 years without charge or trial

The last British resident being held in Guantanamo Bay, Shaker Aamer, could be released "within weeks" his lawyer has told Victoria Derbyshire.

Clive Stafford Smith said various US government officials had told him Mr Aamer was going to be released in June.

He has never been charged or been on trial and, since 2007, has been cleared for release twice by both President George Bush and Barack Obama.

The UK Foreign Office said his case remained "a high priority".

Mr Stafford Smith said: "I have heard from various sources, which are very reliable I hope, that he is to be released in June.

"But of course we've had promises before and the worst thing one can do is, both for Shaker and for his wife and children, to promise something that may not happen. But there's no good reason why it wouldn't happen."

'Incredibly grateful'

President Obama's pledge to close the high-security prison camp in Cuba is the primary reason behind Mr Aamer's likely release, Mr Stafford Smith said.

"And he can't do that unless he gets rid of the 57 people who have been cleared at least - and Shaker has been cleared for eight years now.

"But it's also down to the incredibly good work by so many people, like Andrew Mitchell who visited the US with three other MPs. I have letter here with me from Shaker where he's incredibly grateful for that. So many people have done so many great things to help him and I think that's had a great impact."

Mr Aamer was detained in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2001. US authorities allege he had led a unit of Taliban fighters and had met former al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden.

But Mr Aamer has maintained he was in Afghanistan with his family doing charity work.

The Saudi national has permission to live in the UK indefinitely because his wife is a British national. They have four children and live in London - he has never met his youngest child.

Mr Stafford Smith explained: "In Shaker's case, the proof in the pudding is that he was cleared by the Bush administration and cleared by the Obama administration. So if they clear him and all six of the national security agencies say he should be released, then it's quite hard to make the argument that he's guilty of something.

"The world is insane. I go to Guantanamo and see a place where still half of the prisoners who are there have been cleared for release. What other prison is there in the world where 50% of the prisoners are told 'you're free to go but you can't go."

'Perplexed'

Earlier this month, four cross-party MPs - former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell, Jeremy Corbyn, David Davis and Andy Slaughter - met senior officials in Washington to try and secure Mr Aamer's release.

"We're hopeful we advanced the case. We spoke to a number of senior senators who were as perplexed as we are about why it was taking so long for him to be released for transfer back to the United Kingdom," Mr Mitchell told Victoria Derbyshire.

"Our prime minister asked for him to be transferred earlier this year on his visit to the United States and it is incomprehensible that the United States would treat its oldest ally and staunchest friend in this very cavalier way."

In a statement the Foreign Office said it continued to raise Mr Aamer's case "at the highest levels".

"The US authorities have now prioritised this case for review and we welcome President Obama's continuing commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay," it added.

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