This was the day before the rally and march to close Guantánamo, which I covered here, here and here, and it was an extremely well attended event, with over a hundred people in the audience -- mostly campaigners from the various organizations involved in the January 11 protest, including Amnesty International, Witness Against Torture, the World Can't Wait, Code Pink and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
Also present were the attorneys Tom Wilner -- my colleague in the newly established "Close Guantánamo" campaign and website, with whom I had just taken part in a lunchtime event at the New America Foundation (also with Congressman Jim Moran and Col. Morris Davis) -- and Darold Killmer and Mari Newman, attorneys from Denver whom I had asked to come along and speak about their clients, five Yemenis who are still held at Guantánamo.
The half-hour Q&A session that followed the screening was filmed, and I'll be posting that soon, but first I'm posting below a short introduction I delivered while the staff at Busboys and Poets worked on technical issues involving the screening. While these were being resolved, I told the audience about the "Close Guantánamo" campaign, and our petition on the White House's "We the People" website, asking President Obama to fulfil his promise to close Guantánamo. The petition has a one-month deadline, which comes to an end on February 6, so please sign it if you haven't done so already.
I also told the audience about the news from Guantánamo, via Ramzi Kassem, the attorney for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, which I had announced on my website that day. Shaker and other prisoners had made it clear that they would be holding a three-day protest and hunger strike, to let the world know that they were not happy that President Obama was getting away with portraying Guantánamo as a safe and humane facility, and also to show solidarity with those protesting in Washington D.C. and elsewhere in the US.
In addition, I spoke specifically about the need to create a campaign on both sides of the Atlantic to push for the release of Shaker Aamer, well known as the foremost defender in Guantánamo of the prisoners' human rights, on the basis that the Obama administration no longer wants to hold him, and the British government has asked for him to be returned to his wife and family in the UK.
I noted that the Congressional restrictions on releasing prisoners to countries that lawmakers regard as dangerous (included in provisions in the horrendous National Defense Authorization Act, in which lawmakers also declared their intention to hold terror suspects in permanent military custody, without charge or trial), could not realistically extend to the UK, making Shaker the prime candidate for breaking the deadlock regarding the release of prisoners from Guantánamo.
As I also explained, in 2011, the restrictions were so successful that only one living prisoner -- an Algerian who had his habeas corpus petition granted by the courts -- was released, and two others left in coffins, having died at the prison.
My thanks to everyone who turned up to make the screening such a successful event, to Debra Sweet, the national director of the World Can't Wait for organizing it, and to Palina Prasasouk for filming my talk, and to Justin Norman for editing it.
Source: Andy Worthington