AN 82-year-old human rights lawyer has begun a seven-day hunger strike in protest at the government’s lack of action to win the freedom of the last British prisoner from Guantanamo Bay.
Margaret Owen, of Faroe Road, Hammersmith, began her fast on Sunday as father-of-four Shaker Aamer, passed his 170th day of a hunger strike in the notorious US detention camp in Cuba. She’s drinking water, tea with a slice of lemon, and coffee but taking no solid food.
The 82-year-old barrister and grandmother is a member of the charity, Reprieve, which has launched a Stand Fast for Justice Campaign.
Mrs Owen, who is also a director of war charity, Widows for Peace Through Democracy, said: “This man has been in Guantanamo for 11 years. He hasn’t even met his youngest daughter because she was born two months after he was captured.
“It’s appalling that they can keep him locked up there with no charge and in spite of the fact that he has been cleared for release.
“I am in my 82nd year, but should my health deteriorate, it is a small thing to risk compared to the present life of a 45-year-old.
“Shaker, who is younger than my youngest son, is the father of four children and is slowly dying inside Guantanamo.”
Reflecting on her first day without food, Mrs Owen said she had been surprised to discover how much mealtimes provide the framework for work and relaxation.
She added: “For the next seven days this pattern won’t be there. But then immediately I think of Shaker, years and years of nothingness except beatings, torture, and solitary confinement.
“I am not in solitary, am not living in fear and in pain and am not separated from my family.”
Reprieve’s campaign began with a week’s fast by the charity’s founder and director, Clive Stafford Smith, who is also 45-year-old Mr Aamer’s lawyer. It attracted some high-profile supporters, including actor Julie Christie, 72, and Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle. who have each fasted for a week in attempt to pressure the UK government to take some action.
Mr Aamer, whose family lives in Battersea, was working in Afghanistan for an Islamic, Saudi charity in 2002 when he was taken prisoner.
In spite of being cleared for release by the US he is reported as saying he is still being held “…perhaps because of the torture I witnessed years ago, or maybe because I tried to stand up for the rights of weaker prisoners when I saw abuses”.
To follow Mrs Owen’s daily blog about her hunger strike, which ends on Sunday morning, go to www.reprieve.org.uk