Celebrities and MPs have declared they are taking part in a "hunger strike" as a sign of solidarity with Shaker Aamer, the last remaining British prisoner in Guantanamo Bay. Actors Maxine Peake and Mark Rylance, shadow chancellor John McDonnal, Conservative MP David Davis and comedian Frankie Boyle are among the dozens of high-profile names who have vowed to fast for 24-hours in protest at the alleged abuse suffered by Aamer while being held at the detention camp in Cuba.
Aamer, who has been held in Guantanamo Bay since 2002 without ever being charged or put on trial, is finally set to be released having previously been cleared by both the Bush and Obama administrations. Campaigners have fought for the release of the 46-year-old over concerns he is now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of "barbaric treatment, including extensive torture, for more than a decade".
Confirmation of his release was given on 25 September, but Aamer still remains in Guantanamo as the US administration has to give Congress 30 days' notice of his release. Aamer is reported to have told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, that he has embarked on a hunger strike in protest at his "constant and ongoing abuse", and he fears he will not see his family again due to his weakened state.
Andy Worthington, co-director of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, said: "After the great news that Shaker Aamer is to be released from Guantanamo, we were all disturbed to discover that he is on a hunger strike, and wanted to show solidarity with him, and to encourage him to give up his hunger strike.
"We very much hope that he will be released at the end of the 30-day period required by Congress before prisoners can be freed, but we will continue with the hunger strike if he is not. After nearly 14 years in US custody, treated brutally and never charged or tried, Shaker needs to be back with his family in London."
Aamer's family, who are planning to join the campaign, added: "Thank you all so much for taking part in this fasting. We are touched. Our family will be joining in the fasts with all of you. Let's all bring Shaker home."
Soon after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Aamer was detained in Afghanistan accused of fighting at Tora Bora, a military engagement that took place at the beginning of the War on Terror. He was transferred to Guantanamo in 2002 after spending time in Bagram Airfield, a US military base in Afghanistan. Despite being described as a "close associate of Osama bin Laden" in US military files, Aamer denies being involved in terrorist activity and says he was in Afghanistan to conduct charity work.