Campaigning Hagley doc goes on hunger strike in support of Guantanamo prisoner (From Stourbridge News)
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Campaigning Hagley doc goes on hunger strike in support of Guantanamo prisoner
A CAMPAIGNING Hagley doctor is going on on hunger strike to call for the release of the last Brit in Guantanamo Bay.
Consultant neurologist Dr David Nicholl is starting the five-day fast at 1.46pm today (Wednesday September 11) to highlight the plight of Shaker Aamer, who has been held without charge in the Cuban camp for 11 years.
Dr Nicholl, who works at Birmingham’s City Hospital, believes Mr Aamer has been left languishing at Guantanamo because he may have witnessed unexplained deaths during his time locked up.
The 48-year-old experienced human rights campaigner has tried numerous ways to keep the case in the public eye.
He ran the London Marathon in 2005 to highlight the plight of Mr Aamer and fellow British Guantanamo detainees Jamal Kiyemba and Omar Deghayes (who have since been released) - the day after he and relatives of the prisoners delivered a letter to Downing Street.
And in April this year he called on his MP Sajid Javid to attend a Parliamentary debate on the continued imprisonment of 44-year-old Mr Aamer - the last British resident left in the camp.
But like Shaker, who has been on hunger strike since March, Dr Nicholl feels self-imposed starvation is the only protest left open to him.
He said: “I’ve done everything I possibly can do to raise awareness.
"I can’t think what else I could do. If anyone had a better idea of what to do I’d do it.”
Dr Nicholl said he has decided to start his show of solidarity for Shaker and other hunger-striking Guantanamo inmates on September 11 to highlight where he was on 9/11 - watching his daughter Isobel take her first steps on a beach in Wales; a pleasure, he says, Shaker never had with his son Faris who was born after his captivity began.
The campaigning doc said: “It remains an abject disgrace that he has not seen his son throughout his life."
He has also chosen the anniversary of the 2001 US terrorist attacks, at the exact time the first plane hit New York’s Twin Towers, because he feels 12 years on "we should reflect on the events of that day but also on the errors that have been made subsequently - of which Guantanamo is one of the most obvious examples".
Saudi-born Mr Aamer, whose wife and four children are British and live in London, was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and transferred in 2002 to Guantanamo where he has remained despite being cleared, as early as 2007, for release by the US - by both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Campaigners say he has been kept in solitary confinement and tortured and they believe the only reason he is still being held is to prevent embarrassment to the US and UK governments - as it it claimed that Mr Aamer may have witnessed three alleged suicides in 2006 and that British security services were complicit in his torture.
Dr Nicholl said: “I very much want to hear Shaker’s story.”
The Foreign Office says Prime Minister David Cameron raised Mr Aamer’s case with Barack Obama during the G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June and later wrote to the US president stressing the importance the UK places on the request to release Mr Aamer, whose health is considered to be in "imminent danger".
A Foreign Office spokesman added: “We are confident US Government understands the seriousness of the UK’s request for Mr Aamer’s release.
“Any decision regarding Mr Aamer’s release ultimately remains in the hands of the United States Government.
“We continue to monitor Mr Aamer’s welfare through engagement with the US authorities.”
Dr Nicholl's starvation stunt for Shaker follows hunger strikes by former MI6 spy Harry Ferguson, comedian Frankie Boyle, actress Julie Christie and Clive Stafford Smith - director of human rights charity Reprieve. He is, however, urging readers not to follow his lead in support but instead to write to their MPs calling for action.
He said: “The outcome I hope for is that people will ask why has it taken the government six years to not release an innocent man. It absolutely blows my mind.”
Dr Nicholl, who played a part in trying to stop the distribution of a European made drug used in executions in the US state of Texas, has stressed his latest efforts to raise the profile of a cause he believes in will not affect his patients or his work.
The father-of-three, who grew up in Northern Ireland, said: “This is a personal political statement; it’s nothing to do with my work. Appropriate measures are in place to make sure patient care is going to be completely safe."
A spokesman for City Hospital said Dr Nicholl was "acting entirely within a personal capacity" and added: "The Trust has assured itself that appropriate plans are in place to prevent any harm coming to patients as a result."
The doc said he was "extremely grateful" for the assistance of his employer and added that he’ll be taking regular fluids (water and black tea) and multi-vitamin supplements throughout the five days. But he warned: “I would not recommend this to anyone. I just want to get people writing to their MP."
Hagley’s MP Sajid Javid said he agrees with Dr Nicholl “about Mr Aamer’s continued detention in Guantanamo Bay” and added: “I believe it is vital that he is released and returned to the UK so he can be reunited with his family as soon as possible.
“I welcome Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt’s reiteration that securing Mr Aamer’s release remains a high priority for the Government, that his case has been repeatedly raised by the Foreign and Defence Secretaries with their US counterparts, and that our Government will continue in its efforts to secure his release.
“Whilst any decision about Mr Aamer’s release ultimately remains in the hands of the United States Government, the UK Government is doing all it can to seek his return.”
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