07:13 GMT06 March 2021
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    The annual London Marathon has beaten its own record by attracting almost 38 thousand runners this Sunday. Many were raising money for charity but one competitor ran for freedom.

    Ten years ago, Dr David Nicholl ran the London Marathon in support of British resident Shaker Aamer and other inmates of the US detention centre at Guantanamo in Cuba. He wasn't expecting to have to run again this year — again, in an orange 'Gitmo' outfit, complete with chains — for the same cause. 

    "I put off wearing the suit till the last possible moment," the 50-year-old neurologist told Sputnik, "in case [US President Barack] Obama decided to release Shaker. Then I would have run without it like any other punter. I was hoping this year would be a victory run."

    Mr Aamer — a Saudi-born British resident with a British wife and four children living in London — has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since February 14 2002, by far the longest time served by any Brit in the detention camp. Reports last week cited US government sources as saying he could be freed in June.

    He has never been charged with any crime and he has twice been approved for release, yet neither President Obama's pledge to close Guantanamo nor British Prime Minister David Cameron's urging of the issue during a visit to Washington earlier this year has actually brought about his release. 

    "I don't know who it reflects worse on," his lawyer Clive Stafford Smith told Sputnik, "the US president for failing to make good on his promise, or the British government for failing to protect a British resident."

    Post 9/11 Events "The Same As 1970s Northern Ireland"

    The reason why Dr Nicholl espoused the cause of Mr Aamer dates back to his own childhood.

    "I grew up in Northern Ireland. I was very troubled by post 9/11 events — it was exactly the same as what happened in Northern Ireland in the early '70s when we had internment, and it was an absolute disaster. It's hard to get across to people that having a fair trial is actually good for your health in terms of reducing your chances of being blown up by a terrorist."

    He wrote letters to MPs during the Tony Blair government and says that the answers showed "it was very obvious that they didn't give a monkey's about the Moazzem Beggs of this world. That's why I ran the marathon then (2005)."

    A few days before this year's London Marathon, Dr Nicholl, in Washington for a medical conference, ran round the White House dressed in the distinctive orange suit as part of both his training and his protest against Guantanamo. "Not one US journalist turned up," he says. "That's what worries me — people haven't got a clue what's going on."

    Obama, Cameron Should Be "Embarrassed Into Action"

    In Britain, he thinks there has been a shift in the Shaker Aamer case, with more people aware of the situation, particularly since the Daily Mail newspaper took it up. Last month's parliamentary debate was also impressive, because "there were MPs from all parties saying this is nuts, he needs to come back to London now."

    Obama and Cameron need to be embarrassed into action, he says. "What's the point of politicians if they can't take action?

    "I think Obama probably does want to release the prisoners who've been cleared, but he's been very weak. There is a lot of tension between the State Department and the Pentagon. But there's only one commander-in-chief."

    Dr Nicholl believes that Shaker's release has been held up because "he knows too much" about MI5's alleged involvement in torture, and the alleged suicides of three inmates in June 2006 — an incident detailed in the book 'Murder at Camp Delta' by former guard Joe Hickman.

    "It does make you wonder about the quality of our leadership in the US and in Britain," says Dr Nicholl.

    "We've got to the point where Obama should put his foot down vis-a-vis Congress, and Cameron should do something public.

    "For Cameron to meet Shaker's family would be a big step — he doesn't have to say anything, just that visual would be a very shrewd move."

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


    US Drags Feet on Release of Gitmo Prisoners Held Despite Lack of Evidence
    Guantanamo: 'Obama Has Disappointed Many People'
    Shaker Aamer: Battle to Free the Remaining Brit in Guantanamo Goes On
    Guantanamo: why is it Still Open?
    Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), marathon, terror attack, prison, charity, terrorism, human rights, torture, torture report, 9/11, MI5, Shaker Aamer, David Cameron, Tony Blair, Guantanamo, Cuba, Washington, US, Guantanamo Bay, United Kingdom
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