As the last British detainee at Guantanamo Bay is set to be released to the UK, the Henry Jackson Society has serious concerns that Shaker Aamer could inspire more homegrown jihadis in the UK because of his dangerous associations.
“The United States government believes him to be a military-trained al-Qaeda member who recruited for extremist causes and had close ties to Osama bin Laden,” says Research Fellow Robin Simcox, who has researched into Aamer extensively; “He was a hugely influential figure at Guantanamo Bay known to be able to exert influence over detainees and guards alike.”
During his time at Guantanamo, one guard described him as the camp’s ‘Bon Jovi’ for his celebrity status and power over other inmates. Seven separate sources at the detention facility attested to Aamer’s connections to either al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden.
What is most concerning about Aamer is that:
- The charities that he said he has worked for in the past have been listed by the United Nations and US Treasury as al-Qaeda support groups.
- He is suspected of fighting at Tora Bora, Afghanistan, as the US and its allies attacked al-Qaeda and Taliban forces there towards the end of 2001.
- Multiple detainees at Guantánamo Bay have identified Aamer as the commander of the Juhanya Centre in Tora Bora (Abu Juhanyah was one of Shaker Aamer’s aliases).
- Fellow Guantánamo detainees have claimed Aamer became the de facto emir of a group of detainees on the strength of his personal charisma, making others swear loyalty to him and spreading civil unrest.
Shaker Aamer was held in the prison for 13 years for a reason. Now that he is due to arrive back in the UK, the government must monitor his activity extremely closely.
Aamer’s case was debated in the House of Commons in March. MPs, including new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, were in support of his release and lobbied Washington to speed up his transfer to the UK after it was cleared in 2007.
The detainee, whose wife and four children live in London, is also due to receive an approximately £1 million payout by the British government as compensation after an out-of-court settlement related to the intelligence services’ role in his alleged rendition. This must also be reviewed in light of its potential to assist violent extremists at home or abroad.