"Chronic and Severe Mental and Physical Conditions" Aside, Shaker Aamer Looks Pretty Good

Benjamin Wittes
Wednesday, November 11, 2015, 11:48 AM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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It was only a few days ago that we were still hearing about former Guantanamo detainee Shaker Aamer's grave physical condition. "Shaker 'will take years to regain health' after his Guantanamo ordeal: Former detainee will be tested to see if he has been poisoned," reads the headline in the Daily Mail on November 1. The article opens:

Shaker Aamer is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and severe headaches and is being tested to see if he has been poisoned, doctors revealed last night.

Britain’s last Guantanamo Bay detainee is receiving medical treatment at a private clinic where he is said to have had an emotional reunion with his wife Zinnara and seen his four children.

Mr Aamer, who was known as ‘Prisoner 239’ at the notorious US detention centre in Cuba, met his youngest son Faris for the first time over the weekend.

Dr David Nicholl, who was the first doctor to see the 48-year-old on his return, said he had ‘aged a lot’ and was suffering from severe headaches and sciatica – pain in the back, hip and leg.

Aamer's medical conditions have been a long-standing feature of the campaign to free him. His lawyers last year even filed this motion seeking habeas relief on grounds of his deteriorating health. "Shaker Aamer is a sick man and he is not a young man," the brief reads. "Mr. Aamer should be released immediately because his illness has become so chronic that recovery, even with optimal circumstances and care, is precluded within one year, and is likely to take many years or the full course of his remaining natural life."

Given his grave prognosis, I was a little surprised to see these photos of him in the Telegraph, looking pretty hale and fit, out for a stroll in London. The Telegraph reports that "was seen smiling as he walked down a London street on Tuesday. The article, mysteriously, makes scant mention of his health.

The Daily Mail, having only lately fretted that he was being poisoned, headlines the pictures: "The taste of freedom: Britain's last Guantanamo Bay prisoner Shaker Aamer is all smiles as he's seen out in the fresh air for the first time." It reports: "Despite suffering from a number of health conditions, Mr Aamer looked relaxed and happy as he wandered in the fresh air from his family home in Battersea, south London."

Benjamin Wittes is editor in chief of Lawfare and a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of several books.

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