Shaker Aamer: Compensation issue 'holding up Guantanamo prisoner's release'

Shaker Aamer has been held for 13 years. Credit: Reprieve handout

The last British detainee at Guantanamo Bay will not be released until a row over whether he is entitled to compensation is resolved, his lawyer has told ITV News.

Shaker Aamer, 48, has been held at the controversial prison for 13 years without charge after US authorities suspected him of working for al-Qaeda.

His lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, who has just returned from speaking to Mr Aamer face-to-face in Guantanamo, claimed one reason for the delay in releasing the father-of-four was due to a debate over whether he should have access to any compensation paid to him.

"Shaker was involved in litigation against the government for its complicity in his torture," Stafford-Smith told ITV News.

"He hasn't received any compensation and there isn't going to be a lawsuit settled while he's in Guantanamo Bay.

"But one of the issues that I think the governments have raised is 'We can't give this money to this guy if he doesn't deserve it'."

"That's all nonsense - Shaker long since agreed that any compensation he ever gets can go into a trust fund for his children. So it's just another red herring for trying to stop this from being sorted out."

US President Barack Obama promised last month to prioritise the Briton's case after talks with Prime Minister David Cameron, who said Mr Aamer's situation was "important" to him.

Despite the president's comments, Stafford-Smith said his client was suffering from depression over the lack of progress in securing his release.

"I've just got back from Guantanamo and the fact that the Prime Minister would meet the President [Obama], and the President would say he was going to prioritise Shaker Aamer's case is just deeply disturbing and depressing for someone in Shaker's position."

Stafford-Smith added: "What we have to do is keep on pressing. It is ultimately a diplomatic issue not a legal issue.

"They should let him go tomorrow; they can't hold an innocent man forever. It's really a matter of Britain getting a person back to be with his children."

Ruhal Ahmed, a British citizen who was imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for over two years, said his former prison mate needed to be released "immediately".

Speaking to ITV News in last month, Mr Ahmed said: "He shouldn't have gone to prison to begin with. It's [his release] has got to be immediate. He needs to be released today - now."

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: “We welcome President Obama’s commitment to prioritise Mr Aamer’s case following his meeting with the Prime Minister last month.

"We will continue to work with the US to secure his release to the UK as a matter of urgency.”