Shaker Aamer’s release came after celebrities and members of Parliament joined a publicity campaign demanding he be freed and Prime Minister David Cameron urged President Obama to resolve the case.
LONDON — The last U.K. resident imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, returned home to Britain on Friday after almost 14 years in which he became a defiant spokesman for fellow prisoners.
Shaker Aamer, who was never charged with a crime, arrived aboard a private plane after being released from the U.S. military prison in Cuba late Thursday.
“My thanks go to Allah first, second to my wife, my family, to my kids and then to my lawyers who did everything they could to carry the word to the world,” he said. “I feel obliged to every individual who fought for justice, not just for me, but to bring an end to Guantánamo.”
Aamer’s release came after celebrities and members of Parliament joined a publicity campaign demanding he be freed and Prime Minister David Cameron urged President Obama to resolve the case.
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His release, the 15th from Guantánamo this year, brings the detainee population there to 112, and comes as part of a renewed push by Obama to close the facility opened by his predecessor after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Aamer, 48, a Saudi citizen who married a British woman and moved to London in the mid-1990s, had told his lawyers he would seek a medical exam in Britain because of concerns about his health, stemming in part from hunger strikes he staged to protest detention.
He was born in Saudi Arabia but wanted to return to London, where he has four children, including a son he has never seen. His wife is the daughter of a prominent retired imam.
Clive Stafford Smith, one of Aamer’s lawyers, told the BBC that Aamer faces no charges in Britain and will not be questioned by authorities. Scotland Yard detectives questioned him for three days during his Guantánamo Bay detention.
Aamer has said he went to Afghanistan to help run a school for girls, and fled during the chaos after the U.S. invasion in late 2001. He was captured by the Northern Alliance and turned over to U.S. forces, who took him to Guantánamo in February 2002.
The U.S. Defense Department has disclosed that Aamer was accused of significant links to terrorism. They said he shared an apartment in the late 1990s with Zacarias Moussaoui, who was convicted of taking part in the Sept. 11 conspiracy; had met with Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a U.S. passenger jet with explosives in his shoes; had undergone al-Qaida training in the use of explosives and missiles; and received a stipend from Osama bin Laden.
An assessment later obtained and published by WikiLeaks included those allegations and more, including a description of Aamer as an al-Qaida member and “close associate” of bin Laden.
Aamer and his supporters have denied the allegations, and the United States never charged him with a crime. He was freed after a task force appointed by Obama conducted a “comprehensive review” of his case, the Pentagon said in a statement.