US officials may have attempted to negotiate the forced return of British resident Shaker Aamer to Saudi Arabia, despite a promise to the UK not to do so, it’s been revealed.
Previously-secret documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that in August 2010, less than two months after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told then-Foreign Secretary William Hague that she ‘welcomed… discussing Mr Aamer’s case’, theUS instructed its Saudi embassy on ‘engaging Saudi Arabia on Shaker Aamer’. Another document reveals how, at an August 2013 meeting between senior US officials and theSaudi interior minister, Mr Aamer was described as a ‘Saudi citizen with significant ties to the UK’.
Shaker Aamer, a father of four British children, has been held at Guantanamo Bay without charge or trial since 2002. He has been cleared for release twice, by the Bush administration in 2007, and by President Obama in 2009. The British Government has repeatedly said Mr Aamer should be returned to his British wife and children in London.
In January, following talks between Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama, the White House said it would ‘prioritise’ Mr Aamer’s case, but concerns were raised when, one month later, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that Mr Aamer’s case was not ‘on his desk.’ At a Parliamentary debate this afternoon, MPs will call on President Obama to keep his promise to free Mr Aamer to the UK.
Cori Crider, a director at human rights organization Reprieve and a lawyer for Mr Aamer, said: ‘It is a scandal that Shaker Aamer continues to languish in Guantanamo. Bland reassurances that the Obama administration is prioritising his case are no longer enough. We need a concrete timetable for his return home, and we must see answers on why this didn’t happen years ago. For a start, we need to know what happened in secret meetings between the UK and US, and the US and Saudi Arabia – are these indications of an attempt to silence him by handing him over to the Saudi regime?’