The Obama administration has notified Congress of its intent to send Shaker Aamer, a suspected al-Qaeda plotter held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for over 13 years, back to the United Kingdom, yielding to a lengthy campaign to secure the British resident’s release, officials said on Friday.
President Obama discussed the decision to move Aamer, whose case has become a cause célèbre in the United Kingdom, with Prime Minister David Cameron in a phone call on Thursday.
Aamer, who was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and brought to Guantanamo Bay in February 2002, was a “close associate of Osama bin Laden” who fought in the battle of Tora Bora, according to U.S. military files disclosed by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
A Saudi national who married a Briton in the 1990s, Aamer has been the focus of high-level discussions between the two countries, as British officials have increased pressure on the Obama administration to put aside lingering concerns about the risks associated with releasing Aamer and set him free. He has never been charged with a crime.
Already this year, British lawmakers have visited Washington to lobby for the prisoner’s release, and Cameron himself addressed the issue in talks with Obama. Before a meeting with the president in January, Cameron said, “I have raised the case in the past. I will raise it again. It is important.”
Aamer is the last of several British residents or citizens held at Guantanamo since 2002.
Born in Medina, Saudi Arabia, in 1966, Aamer attended college in Jeddah and trained to be a nurse at a military hospital. He lived briefly in Atlanta, with a cousin, in 1989 before moving to Gaithersburg, Md.
After the Gulf War began in 1990, he got a job as a translator for the U.S. military in Saudi Arabia, according to the military files.
While the Obama administration cleared him for release in 2010, military officials have expressed concern about the possibility that Aamer, who has been an influential figure among other prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, could return to militant activity if he is released in Britain.
Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York who along with students at his legal clinic represents Aamer, said the decision to send him back to Britain was years overdue.
Read more: The Washington Post