U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron will make an important request of President Obama when the two world leaders meet later this week to discuss business: the release of the British resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo Bay.
Despite Cameron’s announcement of his intentions, Stafford Smith, Aamer’s lawyer and director of the charity Reprieve, remains skeptical that a relatively informal request either at the dinner slated for Jan. 15 or the meeting in the Oval Office will accomplish much.
“He has said this before and little has come of it. Rather than just raising Shaker’s case, Mr Cameron must come back from Washington with a concrete date for Shaker’s return home to London,” Smith told Reuters.
Cameron has maintained that if released, Aamer will be allowed to return to his family in London. Although numerous U.K. members of parliament and celebrities have agitated for a release of the Saudi, their efforts — including hunger strikes — have up until now fallen on deaf ears. The U.K. has been asking for Aamer’s release since 2007 without success.
Saudi-born Aamer attained resident status after moving to Britain in 1996 and marrying a British citizen, Reuters reports. A few years later, Aamer ended up in Afghanistan working for an Islamic charity. Saeed Siddique, Aamer’s father-in-law, told The Daily Mail that he picked up and moved his family to Afghanistan in search of an “Islamic atmosphere” and a more “peaceful life.”
Shortly after the U.S. military arrived in Afghanistan, the Afghan Northern Alliance captured him. Once processed, Aamer ended up in Guantanamo Bay.
The allegations are that he worked closely with al-Qaida in Afghanistan as a recruiter, financier and facilitator. According to The Australian, Aamer also confessed to being at Tora Bora with Osama bin Laden, a cave complex where bin Laden escaped from in 2001 to avoid capture. All other British residents or citizens have been released from Guantanamo. Aamer is the only resident left, and the 46-year-old has been imprisoned for 12 years and 11 months.
Obama has repeated his desire to completely close down Guantanamo Bay. The Obama administration maintains that rates of recidivism are on the decline and that barely any former detainees have made the trek back to the battlefield, but Republicans are unconvinced, and recently introduced a bill to bring transfers out of Guantanamo to a crawl.
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