Last Brit released from Guantanamo Bay after 13 years

Shaker Aamer. Picture: Getty
Shaker Aamer. Picture: Getty
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Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held at Guantanamo Bay, has returned to the UK after he was finally released from the controversial prison.

The 46-year-old arrived on a private plane at Biggin Hill airport in south-east London ­yesterday.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond earlier confirmed he had been freed after 13 years in detention at the US military facility in Cuba.

After landing, the jet taxied into a hangar and the doors were closed before Mr Aamer could be seen.

A government spokesman said: “We can confirm that Shaker Aamer has been released from Guantanamo Bay and has returned to the UK.

“It has been a long-standing government policy to secure Mr Aamer’s return to the UK.

“We welcome his release and continue to support president [Barack] Obama’s commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo.”

An ambulance believed to be carrying Mr Aamer left the main entrance of the airport just before 1:30pm, around half an hour after the Gulfstream IV jet landed.

The vehicle’s sirens were turned on as it made its way out of the airport. Earlier, supporters said the father-of-four will require medical attention for health problems. Mr Aamer’s return sparked suggestions he may be in line for taxpayer-funded compensation. In 2010, it was disclosed that the government had agreed a settlement of civil damages claims brought by detainees held at Guantanamo. The payments, which were reported to run to millions of pounds, were subject to confidentiality agreements.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman said: “There was a settlement in relation to detainees in 2010. That was subject to a legally-binding confidentiality agreement. I cannot go into details of who was party to it.”

Mr Aamer’s father-in-law, Saeed Siddique, said: “It’s a delightful day.” He added that his release was a “surprise”.

Clive Stafford-Smith, of human rights group Reprieve, said: “His first priority is health. He really is in terrible shape. He told me he is like an old car who hasn’t been to see a mechanic for a long time. He needs to get to a hospital.

“Then of course his second priority is to get with his family and rebuild that relationship that has been torn from him. He has never even met his youngest child.”

Mr Aamer was described in US military files obtained by the WikiLeaks website as a “close associate of Osama bin Laden” who fought in the battle of Tora Bora. But in 2007 the allegations against him were dropped and he was cleared for release. Despite a formal request by then-foreign secretary David Miliband, American authorities refused to allow him to go.