‘Don’t forget me’: Last British Guantanamo detainee issues desperate plea
The campaign for Aamer’s release, backed and championed by the Daily Mail, has received support from high-profile celebrities and politicians. In a statement on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg pledged his support for Aamer’s release, saying the man should not be kept in “infinite legal limbo.”
The Skype call that Aamer secured with his family was a rarity. Prior to the conversation he had been denied any contact with them for two-and-a-half years. His only contact with the outside world was through occasional meetings with lawyers.
Aamer’s family members were reportedly unaware that British media were following his case, so were forced to tell him that there was very little media coverage.
His father-in-law Saeed Siddique, 72, told the Mail the family was sad to have had given Aamer such disappointing news.
“One of the first things that Shaker wanted to know was whether anyone outside our family cared about him or whether he had just been quietly forgotten.”
“We didn’t know then that the Daily Mail had decided to fight his cause, so we had to be truthful and tell him that no one was writing about his case. He looked very disappointed, but when we are able to tell him about your campaign the next time we speak, it will give him new heart,” he added.
Aamer was arrested in Afghanistan and handed over to American troops fighting the Taliban, but has been detained at Guantanamo without trial since 2002.
While having been deprived of contact with the outside world for years, there has reportedly been a spike in his communication activity, with his last Skype call the second in a month.
Siddique said the family was unsure why he was suddenly permitted to call home so often.
“We have no idea why they are allowing Shaker to call us now, after such a long and very painful silence. It might be a sign that something is about to happen, but we have been disappointed so many times that we daren’t raise our hopes.”
The family expected Aamer to fly home in 2009, when another British Guantanamo detainee, Binyamin Mohammed, was released. The family had to remove ‘welcome home’ signs after Aamer failed to board the expected flight.
Aamer’s wife Zin and their four children live in Battersea, South London.
The detainee has reportedly remained in Guantanamo because, despite having clearance to leave from the US, there are fears he “knows too much” about the extent of US torture. His information could also be highly damaging to the British Labour Party and its former leader Tony Blair.
The campaign to free Aamer has gathered the support of MPs Dianne Abbott and Sir Alan Duncan, as well as Green Party leader Natalie Bennett. Other notables, including actor Bill Nighy, have signed the open letter, calling Aamer’s detention “shocking.”
The ‘We Stand with Shaker’ campaign is urging Prime Minister David Cameron to “pick up the phone to President Obama, and bring Shaker Aamer home.”