Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

A Saudi national and British resident, detained at Guantanamo for almost 14 years without charge: Who is Shaker Aamer?

Born on December 21, 1966, in Saudi Arabia, Shaker Aamer was the last British resident to be released from Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.

He was held there for almost 14 years without charge.

Shaker Aamer

This is his story:

He moved to America where he worked as a chef in diners, primarily in Atlanta, Georgia, before responding to an advert for the US military in 1990, during the first Gulf War, recruiting Arabic-English translators.

He worked for the infantry for several years, before moving to London in 1996, where he met and married his British wife Zinneera.

She was pregnant with their fourth child when the family moved to Taliban-held Afghanistan in 2001, just two months before 9/11.

Mr Aamer claims he was working for a charity, and said he moved there in pursuit of a better life. He told ITV News his wife was being abused in the street for wearing the niqab face veil, and said at that time food and property over there were cheap.

"I went there because I wanted to feel comfortable, I wanted to live among people that practice the same beliefs and the time that I was here, a lot of people didn't understand the pressure we go through when you live as a practising Muslim family.

"My wife, out of her own will, wears a full niqab, she covers herself completely - unfortunately a lot of people don't understand that is her choice, a lot of the time she will be called names because of the way she is.

"A lot of the time, when she walks around going to a shop or going to a bank suddenly you see all these eyes turning towards you like youre going to do something wrong. She's crying over it.

"I know not everybody's like that but still, you feel you are not comfortable. And when I went there [to Afghanistan], we are just like everybody else. All the females wear the same thing, all the men do the same thing."

He admitted that he travelled there on a false passport, acknowledging that it was illegal but insisting he had no choice as the government in his homeland of Saudi Arabia had withdrawn his own.

He said while he did not fully understand what had happened on 9/11, he soon felt the effects as the country turned into a war zone.

He was captured by the Northern Alliance, who, he claims, sold him to the US accused of aiding al-Qaeda terrorists.

He was then transferred to Guantanamo.

During his time in captivity, Mr Aamer's lawyers claim he was tortured and held in solitary confinement for 360 days.

In 2005, he lost half his body weight during a hunger strike, and said he almost died.

A Guantanamo tribunal board ruled in 2007 that he posed no risk, and he was asked if he wanted to return to Saudi Arabia.

He told ITV News the offer was withdrawn when he asked if his wife and children would join him there.

"When they came to me in 2007 ... they were telling me, 'you are going to be transferred to Saudia Arabia'," he said.

"The first response when they told me you are going to Saudi Arabia, I told them what about my wife and my kids? But they didnt worry about that, they hadn't even thought about it. "They said: 'Are you going to Saudia Arabia?' I said: 'Listen man, what about my wife and my kids? Are they going to be with me?'

"He said we dont know about that, are you willing to go Saudi Arabia? I said let me speak to the delegation team, let me ask them if my wife and my kids can come.

"Straight away he looked at me and he said: 'You refuse', and he walked away laughing and said 'I'm going home, you are staying here'."

Five months later, WikiLeaks published documents which contained allegations from other detainees that Mr Aamer was a key "recruiter, financier, and facilitator" for al-Qaeda.

The documents also claim Mr Aamer confessed to being in Tora Bora with Osama bin Laden at the time of the US bombing - a confession he says was extracted after days of torture.

He told ITV News that he had known radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada, who was deported to Jordan in 2013 after a lengthy legal battle - but defended him, claiming the preacher had never said a bad word about Britain in his presence.

"Everybody can say what he knows and what he believes, but I know this guy from Friday prayers, we used to sit and talk," he said.

"I don't believe, not for a second, that man is radicalising anybody or he is a terrorist or he believes in terrorism. In fact he is helping right now with a lot of things.

"Through me knowing him, I never hear anything that man says against this country ... I swear to my lord not a single time."

The claims against him were again rejected by a panel set up by President Barack Obama in 2009, when he was deemed safe for release.

The US repeatedly refused to return him to the UK, however, until finally agreeing to his transfer in September.

He returned the following month and is expected to bring legal proceedings against the British government over its alleged complicity in his mistreatment.

More on this story