Stars call on Obama to free Guantanamo Briton

Shaker Aamer: 13 years in prison. Picture: PA
Shaker Aamer: 13 years in prison. Picture: PA
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A HOST of film stars, musicians and politicians have called on US president Barack Obama to release Britain’s last Guantanamo detainee on Independence Day.

In an open letter, actors including Ralph Fiennes and Sir Patrick Stewart, and musicians including Peter Gabriel have joined mounting calls for Shaker Aamer to be freed.

British resident Aamer, 46, has been detained without trial in the US maximum security prison in Cuba for 13 years despite being cleared for release in 2007.

London mayor Boris Johnson and comedian-turned- activist Russell Brand are also among more than 90 people who signed the letter, published yesterday, to coincide with the US public holiday.

Earlier this year Obama said he would “prioritise” Aamer’s case after David Cameron raised the father-of-four’s plight in high-profile talks.

His family and campaigners have made repeated calls for him to be released and reunited with his wife and children at their south London home.

Brand said: “Barack Obama, who inspired so much hope and has presided over so much pain and disappointment, in this single act of compassion can alter history. Shaker must be returned to his family, innocence must be respected, then perhaps hope can prevail.”

Sir Patrick added: “Time to say, enough. This man deserves his liberty.”

The letter, also signed by Labour leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn and the heads of civil rights groups Reprieve, Amnesty International and Liberty, urged an immediate end to his “unjustifiable detention”.

It said: “The majority of us are British citizens, and it has not escaped our notice that, while the US is celebrating its freedom, and its foundation under the rule of law, the continuing detention of men at Guantanamo – largely without charge or trial – continues to undermine America’s notion of itself and its international standing.

“We cannot understand the difficulty involved in releasing him to the UK, a close ally of the USA, including on counter- terrorism.”

When US attorney general Loretta Lynch attended the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta last month “it was impossible not to think of Shaker Aamer”, the campaigners said.

“As we congratulate you on the celebration of your country’s independence, we also urge you to address the ongoing and unjustifiable detention of Shaker Aamer without further delay,” the letter, sent by the We Stand With Shaker campaign, concludes.

Aamer was born in Saudi Arabia but his wife and four children are British citizens. He moved with his pregnant wife and young family to Afghanistan in 2001, where he says he was working for a charity. Reprieve claims Aamer was abducted and sold for a bounty to US forces.

He says he has been beaten, tortured and starved of sleep and food inside Guantanamo.