After thirteen years held without charges at the offshore U.S. prison at Guantanamo, 48-year-old British citizen Shaker Aamer was put on a private jet just after midnight on Friday and sent back to the UK.
According to reporting by Carol Rosenberg at the Miami Herald:
[Aamer] was one of Guantánamo’s best known prisoners because some Britons, including his wife and four children living in London, turned his case into a cause célèbre. In May, a bipartisan delegation of British members of parliament stumped for his release in meetings with Obama administration officials as well as members of Congress.
The transfer left 112 detainees at the Pentagon prison, 52 of them approved for transfer to other countries.
The transfer, the second release from the prison in 42 hours, left the detention center population at 112 captives. Of them, 52 are like Aamer was on the eve of his flight off this remote U.S. Navy base: Approved for release with security arrangements that satisfy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
In the U.S. Aamer has been heard on a 60 Minutes segment hollering, "Tell the world the truth" at a CBS camera crew in a rare scrap of prison camp audio to survive the U.S. military censor’s delete button.
Aamer had been cleared for transfer from Guantánamo since 2007 although behind the scenes negotiations never sealed a deal until Carter notified Congress last month that he’d approved Aamer’s repatriation to the United Kingdom.
Reprieve, the non-profit legal defense group representing Aamer, said its understanding is that Shaker, who is believed to have landed at an airport outside of London sometime in the early morning, wants to spend time with his family and receive medical attention before he speaks to any media.
In response to news of his relief, Cori Crider, Shaker’s US attorney and Reprieve's strategic director, said: "We are, of course, delighted that Shaker is on his way back to his home and his family here in the UK. It is long, long past time. Shaker now needs to see a doctor, and then get to spend time alone with his family as soon as possible."
According to Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith, Aamer aspires to set up set up a "Peace and Philanthropy Center" at a London university. The goal, Smith told the Herald, is to "share his experience — in the spirit of reconciliation, not persecution, to ensure that in the future nobody has to go through what he had gone through."
When it came out earlier that Aamer might soon be released, Smith called it "great news, albeit about 13 years too late."
The husband and father of four, Smith said, "is not and never has been a terrorist, and has been cleared by the Americans themselves for 8 years." Now, he concluded, is the time for Aamer to start rebuilding his life.