UK

Guantanamo detainee Shaker Aamer 'not getting hopes up'

Shaker Aamer with two of his children Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Shaker Aamer with two of his children

The last British resident in Guantanamo Bay says he is "not getting his hopes up" about returning to the UK, as there have been "so many false promises".

Shaker Aamer, 48, who has been held in the military prison in Cuba since 2002, could be returned this weekend.

He told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme in letters sent via his lawyers that the first thing he wanted when he was free was a cup of coffee.

The US government announced last month that he would be released.

"I am not getting my hopes up about being back in the UK," he said.

"I will believe it when I get there.

"There have been so many false promises over the years.

"They told me over eight years ago that I was cleared to leave, and here I am, still here."

The BBC understands the earliest date Mr Aamer could be released to the UK is 25 October.

The announcement of his release was made on 25 September, and the US Congress, by law, is allowed a 30-day notification window to review the inmate transfer.

'Check-up'

Mr Aamer added: "When I do get back the first thing I want is a cup of coffee.

"Then, I need a full medical check-up, somewhere totally confidential where they will finally respect my privacy.

"I am an old car that has not been to the garage for years.

"But then, I need to be with my family.

"You must consider 239 to be like an alien from Mars - 239 is my prison number here and they always call me by it.

"I am not sure I would know to respond to anything else - like my name, Shaker.

"I have known nothing about the real world for more than 13 years."

Image copyright US Military
Image caption US Military file on Shaker Aamer

Mr Aamer was detained in Afghanistan in 2001.

US authorities allege he had led a unit of Taliban fighters and had met former al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

But Mr Aamer has maintained he was in Afghanistan with his family doing charity work.

The Saudi national has permission to live in the UK indefinitely because his wife is British. They have four children and live in London.

He said British people had nothing to fear from his return.

He said: "Islam respects contracts. When I come home to the UK, that is a contract between me and the people of Britain. That means you have to obey the rules.

"There was a story about the Prophet [Muhammad] - a man came to him wanting to fight for him, but he had promised the authorities he would not fight.

"The Prophet said, 'You must keep your promise to the authorities.'"

Mr Aamer said he was grateful to his UK supporters, who are fasting as part of a campaign for his release.

"I cried when I read about all the people who were trying to help me," he said.

"All of you people have helped me to feel that I am not all alone.

"I hope that some time I will be able to pay my respects to you all.

"I read in.. Inferno [by Dan Brown] a quote that struck me: 'The worst sickness to hit the world is denial. The only solution is justice.'

"All I have asked for is justice. Hate me or hold me, only be just.

"Everyone who has helped us here in Guantanamo, even without realising it, they have helped the whole world, and thereby they have helped themselves."

The Victoria Derbyshire programme is broadcast on weekdays between 09:15 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.

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