After 14 Years, U.S. To Release Guantanamo Detainee
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Shaker Aamer has been held at Guantanamo Bay for 14 years. He's a British resident who has a British wife and four children in London. Last month, the U.S. notified Congress of Aamer's impending release, but his supporters in London have been disappointed before. So as NPR's Leila Fadel reports, they've started a hunger strike to call attention to his case.
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: The hunger strike was launched in a square opposite Britain's houses of Parliament. Some of the participants were dressed in orange jumpsuits to copy the clothing detainees wear in Guantanamo.
JOHN MCDONNELL: All the evidence demonstrates that this was a charity worker, he went out to Afghanistan with his family, he was digging wells, building schools for girls. He was doing everything right
FADEL: That's John McDonnell. He's a British parliamentarian and a senior member of the opposition Labour Party. He holds a sign that says we fast for Shaker. Aamer's lawyers, family and supporters deny suggestions he was a terrorist. They say he was captured by Afghans and sold to the Americans for a bounty. The White House cleared him to leave Guantanamo in 2007 and 2009, but he was never released. The U.K. has actively been demanding Aamer's return, and McDonnell says the hunger strike is to protest his treatment and keep up the pressure until he's back in Britain.
MCDONNELL: So we just see him as a real victim of a miscarriage of justice.
FADEL: A senior defense official in Washington said the U.S. approved Aamer's release after a thorough review and, quote, "robust security assurances" that will be provided by the British government. And Congress insists on 30 days notice before any detainee is released. Saeed Siddiqi is Aamer's father-in-law. He last spoke to Aamer by Skype seven months ago.
SAEED SIDDIQI: I'm hopeful. I'm not despaired, but whatever happened in the past, there's still - I have a bit of doubt until he comes in front of us and we see with our open eyes that he's here.
FADEL: Aamer is due to be released on October 25. And this time, a U.S. official says, Aamer is really headed home. Leila Fadel, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.