Shaker Aamer


Shaker Aamer : biography

12 December 1968 –

According to documents published in the leak of Guantanamo Bay files, in November 2007 the US military Joint Task Force Guantanamo believed that Aamer was a “recruiter, financier, and facilitator” for al-Qaeda, based partly on evidence given by the informant Yasim Muhammed Basardah, a fellow detainee. The leaked documents alleged that Aamer had confessed to interrogators that he was in Tora Bora with Osama bin Laden at the time of the US bombing. Aamer denied the allegations.

Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve said the evidence against his client "would not stand up in court." He pointed out that part of the evidence comes from Basardah, whom American judges found to be “utterly incredible” and who was tortured and "promised all sorts of things."

The Bush administration acknowledged later that it had no evidence against Aamer, and he was cleared for release in 2007. The Obama administration cleared him for release in 2009.

Family and personal life

Aamer was born on 12 December 1968 and grew up in Medina in Saudi Arabia. He left the country at the age of 17. He lived and traveled in the United States, Europe and the Middle East. Aamer lived and studied in Georgia and Maryland in 1989 and 1990 and during the Persian Gulf War, he worked as a translator for the U.S. Army.

He moved to the United Kingdom in 1996 where he met his wife, Zin Siddique a British woman. They married in 1997 and have four British children. Aamer has never met his youngest son Faris, who was born after his imprisonment., BBC, 8 February 2005

Aamer worked as an Arabic translator for London law firms. Some of the solicitors he worked for dealt with immigration cases. In his spare time, Aamer helped refugees find accommodation and offered them advice on their struggles with the Home Office.

Aamer’s family now live in Battersea, South London. His wife Zin Aamer has suffered from depression and mental episodes since his arrest. Saeed Siddique, Aamer’s father-in-law, said in 2011, "When he was captured, Shaker offered to let my daughter divorce him, but she said, ‘No, I will wait for you.’ She is still waiting."

UK release negotiations

The United Kingdom government initially refused to intervene on the behalf of Guantánamo detainees who are legal British residents without being British citizens. In August 2007, Foreign Secretary David Miliband requested the release of Aamer and four other men, based on their having been granted refugee status, or similar leave, to remain in Britain as residents prior to their capture by US forces.

With the repatriation of Binyam Mohammed in February 2009, all British citizens and residents other than Aamer have been released. 

The UK government officials have repeatedly raised Aamer’s case with the Americans. On a visit to the United States on 13 March 2009, when asked about Guantánamo captives, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said that the U.S. administration has said they do not want to return Aamer to the U.K. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, raised Aamer’s case again with Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, in November 2010, followed by meetings with other United States officials. At the time, the US government had reached settlement with former detainees as a resolution for damages due to the use of torture in interrogation.

In September 2011, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said that the negotiations are ongoing and confidential. Supporters of Aamer have criticized the UK government for not doing enough on his behalf; they urged the government to step up their efforts.

In January 2012, The Independent revealed that the British government has spent £274,345 fighting in court to prevent Aamer's lawyers from gaining access to evidence which may prove his innocence. The newspaper reported that Aamer has several serious medical complaints from years of "inhumane" detention conditions, and that the UK gave false hope to his family.