LONDON (AP) — American officials have decided to release Shaker Aamer, the last U.K. resident imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, after more than 13 years in U.S. custody, the British government said Friday
President Barack Obama has told Congress of his decision, and 46-year-old Aamer will be returned to Britain once a 30-day notice period has expired, the Foreign Office said.
Britain has asked the U.S. for years to free Aamer, the last of a dozen British nationals or residents held at Guantanamo.
Aamer, originally from Saudi Arabia, is married to a British woman, with whom he has four children, and lived in Britain for several years before 2001. He was detained by anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan in 2001 after the U.S. invasion and handed over to U.S. troops. He has been held at Guantanamo since 2002.
American officials have previously alleged that Aamer had ties to convicted terrorists. In 2007, a senior U.S. official said Aamer had shared an apartment in London in the late 1990s with Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person in the United States charged over the Sept. 11 attacks, and had lived on a stipend from Osama bin Laden.
Aamer was not charged with a crime, denies links to terrorism and says he was in Afghanistan to do voluntary work. He was cleared for release from Guantanamo in 2007 but has remained in custody for a further eight years.
His British lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said the American decision was good news, “albeit about 13 years too late.”
At its peak, Guantanamo housed 700 prisoners accused by the U.S. of involvement in terrorism. Just over 110 remain, down by more than half since Obama took office and pledged to close the prison.
Plans to shut Guantanamo have faltered, with frustrated White House and Pentagon officials blaming each other for the slow progress in releasing approved detainees and finding a new prison to house those still held.
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