The last British detainee at Guantánamo Bay headed back to London on Friday after spending more than a decade behind bars — without ever being formally charged.
Shaker Aamer, 48, had been a captive at the Cuba detention center since 2002, after U.S. officials accused him of leading a unit of Taliban fighters and working closely with Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Ladin. Aamer maintains that he was in Afghanistan doing charity work, and he was never given a trial.
Since 2007, Aamer had been cleared for release twice, first by George W. Bush and again by President Obama, the BBC reports. Many Britons, including his wife and four children at home in London, had been rooting for Aamer’s release for years. In May, British parliament members met with the Obama administration to advocate for repatriation to Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesperson said, according to The Guardian, that there are no plans to detain Aamer; however, he added, “The prime minister has been clear that the public should be reassured that everything to ensure public safety is in place.”
But it was just last month that his repatriation to the U.K. was officially approved by Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Aamer, who helped lead mass hunger strikes at Guantanamo, finally left the detention center at midnight on Friday in a private aircraft and will be rejoining his family in London — as well as receiving treatment for both his physical and mental health.
There are 112 detainees left at Guantánamo.
Aamer, who will meet his 14-year-old son for the first time in upcoming days, referred to himself as, “an old car that has not been to the garage for years” in a letter from his lawyers to the BBC earlier this month. “I have known nothing about the real world for more than 13 years.”