Last month, Spanish judge Fernando Andreu launched the investigation against seven current or former Israeli officials, over a 2002 bombing in Gaza that killed top Hamas militant Salah Shehadeh and 14 other people, including nine children.
The investigation includes former defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, and former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Halutz, who served as the commander of the Israel Air Force at the time of the targeted assassination of Shehadeh, along with five other Israeli officials.
The judge initially launched the investigation under a doctrine that allows prosecution in Spain, and other European countries, to reach far beyond national borders in cases of torture or war crimes. The universal jurisdiction ruling sparked outrage in Israel and elsewhere.
Subsequently, Spanish Foreign Minister said that Spain would act to amend the legislation that granted Andreu the authority to launch the investigation, promising Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that he would take action to prevent such moves in the future.
According to Spanish judicial sources, Andreu decided to continue with investigation after reading material handed over to Spain by Israel’s Foreign Ministry, indicating that Israel is not investigating the incident.
On Tuesday, 24 February, Abu Arjela and family hoped to harvest peas and pick the scrubby weeds that donkeys can eat, regular animal feed being on the list of items no longer available in Gaza as a result of the comprehensive, debilitating Israeli, Egyptian and international siege on Gaza.
In other areas of the region east of Khan Younis, farmers tend to employ local youths to work the land, but whereas the Am Almad farmers are a couple hundred metres closer to the border fence from which Israeli soldier shooting comes, they are no longer confident that they can safely practice daily productive farming. The farmers that do dare to return to their land tend to be elderly, small groups of family members.
Such was the case with the Abu Arjelas.
“We haven’t been back to this land for about 2 months,” Mohammed Suleiman Abu Arjela, Walid’s father, explained. Indeed, at the end of November, 2008, he’d stood by his cowshed hoping to work the land that day, explaining that his farm had been twice devastated [First, in September 2006, when Israeli forces entered with bulldozers, destroying 5 dunums (1 dunum= 1000 square metres) of 15 year old olive trees, 2 dunums of orange and lemon trees, the kitchen and the bathroom of his home, the cow shed, with 7 cows inside, and 200 turkeys and 100 bred pigeons in the process. And then in summer 2008, Israeli soldiers returned, killing 15 sheep, destroying 10 tons of animal feed, and filling in the cistern with rubble, destroying the water source.].
The bulldozers which entered near his land that November day prevented he and the handful of other farmers from plowing the land, instead leaving as quickly as their donkeys and tractor would allow.
Small numbers of farmers also dared to go on their land Tuesday, hoping that this might be a day they could safely farm and gather animal fodder. And like the Abu Arjelas, they were mostly elderly men and women and their sons, spread out over a large area.
Roughly five minutes after the Abu Arjelas had reached their land, Israeli forces amassed at the border fence began firing. Four army jeeps and a Hummer stood at the fence. The shots could in no have been considered ‘warning’ shots: they rang clearly past our ears, hit the dirt less than a metre away. They were sniper-style shots.
Immediately, the international accompaniment began to speak through a megaphone, reiterating the peaceful, non-armed nature of all gathered in the fields.
The firing was the most intense in recent weeks, closer than it’s been in New Abassan, which even then was already within metres of heads and feet. We could almost taste Tuesday’s firing, and the distinct ping-whizz sound they make was somehow impossibly loud, so close the shots were.
One of the older women was having trouble walking away, stumbling in her fear. As the shots dug in around her she fell to the ground in terror.
Positioning ourselves between the elderly farmers and the Israeli snipers, we thus accompanied them off the field, many suddenly crouching instinctively when the shots came near.
A few hundred metres away, the Israeli snipers continued to shoot. Another elderly woman had dived in terror behind a rock and adamantly wouldn’t get up. “They’ll kill me, they’ll kill me. Mother…,” she cried in fear.
Gradually, surrounding her we were able to lead her away, she all the while fearfully muttering incoherently.
Down the dirt lane, donkey carts only partially-filled with greens for animal food, the terrorized farmers converged in bewilderment. Most had had enough and were giving up, as the Israeli military plan hopes they will. The plan is transparent enough, and what I’ve seen in my nearly 4 months here is the policy of terrorizing the farmers and residents living near the Green Line into abandoning their homes, their land.
There are a number who defy this institutionalized terrorizing, who will work the land until they die, naturally or at the hands of the well-equipped Israeli army.
And many are giving up, saying enough, choosing safety over livelihoods although the choice is impossible to make. For many of the people living and working in the “buffer zone” the produce they squeeze from the land, and the revenue from the chicken farms that are becoming less numerous with each invasion and attack, is their means of existence.
But in Khoza’a, Mohammed Abu Arjela isn’t ready to give in, despite the odds stacked against his life. “I have two children. I must go back to my fields to work there today. This is our life, what can we do?”
As we stood gazing back to the abandoned farmland, a crop-duster gracefully swooped again to treat crops on the other side of the Green Line. It rose and swooped, the small airplane unhurriedly gliding over nurtured crops which months later will be unhurriedly harvested. Life is not so impossible outside of Gaza.
For video, go here.
“Residents were assaulted, money was stolen, computers confiscated, over 60 young men arrested and the village placed under curfew. The Israeli soldiers came into my home and threw the contents of cupboards and closets on to the floor,” Shamasni told IPS.
Jayyus, an agricultural community of 3,500 inhabitants, located in the Qalqiliya district of the northern Palestinian West Bank, was invaded by Israeli soldiers using police dogs and backed by military helicopters.
The village has been the scene of frequent clashes between local youths, their Israeli supporters and international sympathisers on the one hand, and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on the other. Dozens protesting Israel’s continued expropriation of village land were injured last Friday by Israeli soldiers firing live ammunition, rubber bullets and teargas.
Israel started building a separation barrier (a combination of walls, ditches and fences), most of it on Palestinian land, in 2002 to separate the Jewish state from the West Bank. This followed a wave of suicide bombings carried out by Palestinian militants, some of them originating from the West Bank.
While Israel has argued that the wall is primarily for security reasons, the Palestinians and human rights organisations accuse the Israelis of using security as a pretext for both a massive land grab for the benefit of illegal Israeli settlements, and continual human rights abuses.
The route of the barrier deviates significantly from the internationally recognised Green Line, veering off repeatedly into the West Bank where it has swallowed enormous swathes of fertile Palestinian land.
The Green Line was established along the 1949 Armistice line following the first Arab-Israeli war. This was meant to establish the borders between the newly established Jewish state and a future Palestinian state.
The barrier’s total length is 725 km, more than twice the length of the Armistice or Green Line. When completed, approximately 14 percent of the barrier will be constructed on the Green Line or in Israel, and 86 percent inside the West Bank.
Prior to the building of the wall approximately 30 percent of the West Bank was expropriated for Israeli settlements, military zones and nature reserves. Another 10 percent was confiscated and declared a closed military zone in 2002 as construction on the barrier began.
Approximately 10,000 Palestinians are trapped in the pockets of territory between the Green Line and the separation barrier. Most Palestinians are unable to cross the Green Line to enter Israel where thousands used to earn a living as well as sell their produce.
Furthermore, many Palestinians in the enclaves are either unable, or have great difficulty, accessing the rest of the West Bank for educational, business, medical or family reasons. They are also required to get permits from the Israelis in order to stay in their homes.
Additionally, the majority of farmers to the east of the barrier are unable to access their agricultural lands in the enclaves between the Green Line and the barrier as the Israelis have refused to issue the requisite permits, on security grounds, needed to reach the land.
The economy of Jayyus has been decimated. Most of the villagers are dependent on the tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, bell peppers, avocados, guavas, olives and citrus produce grown there for their livelihoods.
The barrier near Jayyus deviates six kilometres from the Green Line. During its construction the Israelis uprooted 4,000 olive and citrus trees and expropriated 8,600 dunams of land (1 dunam = 0.1 hectares) belonging to Jayyus.
The village’s farmers are separated from 50,000 fruit and olive trees, most of its greenhouses and six ground water wells used for irrigation, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“Seventy-five percent of our farm land has been confiscated. Only 18 percent of farmers in Jayyus have been given permits to cross the barrier and reach their land near the Green Line. The others were denied permits,” Sharif Khalid, a farmers’ representative, told IPS.
“Prior to the building of the barrier there were 136 greenhouses in the village. Today there are only 72. Millions of dollars have been lost and many farmers have been forced into bankruptcy,” said Khalid.
Abdul Karim Khalid, a relative of Sharif Khalid, lost both of his greenhouses. With three children to support the family have been dependent on his wife’s salary as a teacher. Women in Jayyus like elsewhere in the Palestinian territories have been forced to earn money in whatever capacity possible.
“The security situation, high rates of unemployment and poverty have forced many women to become the bread winners for their families due to many Palestinian men being killed, imprisoned for political offences or losing their jobs,” said Reem Abboushi, executive director of The Palestinian Business Women’s Association.
The Israeli settlement Zufin was constructed on land belonging to Jayyus in 1989. Another Israeli settlement Nofei Zufin is being expanded on land confiscated from the village.
According to Israeli rights organisation B’Tselem the routing of the separation barrier so far from the Green Line was primarily to “leave areas planned for the settlement’s expansion and for a nearby industrial zone on the Israeli side of the barrier.”
In June 2006, in response to a petition to the Israeli High Court of Justice, the state admitted that plans for an industrial zone for Zufin had been taken into consideration in planning the route. The court subsequently ordered a revision of the south-east section of the current barrier route.
However, only 2,500 of the 8,600 dunams of land will be returned to Jayyus, and the re-routing of the wall will again destroy more agricultural land and orchards.
In 2003, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for Israel to stop construction of the barrier. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague ruled in 2004 that “the infringements resulting from that route cannot be justified by military exigencies or by the requirements of security or public order.”
The plans, which have not yet been approved by the government, were drawn up by the Civil Administration, the government agency responsible for nonmilitary matters in the West Bank. Details of the plans appear in the minutes of the agency’s environmental subcommittee, which were obtained by the B’Tselem organization under the Freedom of Information Act.
The plans propose the initial construction of 550 apartments in Gva’ot, located near Alon Shvut in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, followed by construction of another 4,450 units at a later stage. At present, Gva’ot is inhabited by 12 families. The neighboring settlement of Bat Ayin, which has about 120 families, is slated to receive another 2,000 apartments, according to the plans.
Rimonim will get another 254 apartments if the plans are approved, and expansion plans are also in the works for Einav and Mevo Dotan. All three of these settlements are east of the separation fence.
Ma’aleh Adumim has included planned construction in the E-1 corridor in its sewage treatment plans. That corridor, which links Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem, is eventually slated to hold some 3,500 apartments.
Nearby Kfar Adumim’s sewage treatment plan predicts that the settlement will double its population “in the coming years,” to 5,600 inhabitants. And in Eshkolot, the Civil Administration instructed the settlement to draw up a sewage plan adequate for a population five times its current one.
A Civil Administration spokesman said that its “environmental subcommittee does not discuss approval for housing units at all, but deals with the professional aspects of the area’s environmental needs, sometimes at the theoretical level.”
|WAR IS PEACE |
The way to peace
Is to make war
On Hamas –
Thus President Shimon Peres
Berated the Europeans
Who want to start a
Peace dialogue with Hamas.
“War is peace”
Was the slogan of the
Described by George Orwell.
Orwell is dead. His vision is
Alive and kicking
In the President’s residence.
Ad in Haaretz, February 27, 2009
Cheques to help us continue the ads to: Gush Shalom, P.O.Box 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad: “This is a project entitled ‘E1,’ which, if seen through, will destroy the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state in the occupied Palestinian territory. It will separate the northern West Bank from southern West Bank and will completely isolate Jerusalem from the West Bank.”
The Obama administration has yet to voice any public opposition to the expanding Israeli settlements.
At 6:30pm, a group of settlers, after prayer at the near-by Synagogue, attempted to trespass on Palestinian land in order to reach certain caves owned by the Abu-Jibneha family. This was the second incident of trespassing by the settlers of the day. When they reached the entrance to the caves, they began to tear down a fence erected by the Palestinian family to protect the property. Wahiba Abu-Jibneha left her house in order to photograph the incident for the police. She was subsequently attacked, and forced to the ground. One settler then proceeded to crush her left leg with a large rock, just below the knee. Her husband, hearing the commotion, confronted the settlers whom then threatened his life with a fire-arm. Wahiba is currently in hospital.
The Israeli police were telephoned by the family, but they advised the husband to allow the settlers to pray. When the police finally arrived, the settlers dispersed without being identified or reported. According to the family and local Palestinian residents, this is a common police reaction.
The so-called “contested” property has been under the ownership of the Abu-Jibneha family for over 400 years. In 2000, the Israeli Nahlat Shimon Committee, which deals with settler issues, initiated a court case disputing the property rights of the Palestinian owners. The case closed in December 2008, with victory to the Abu-Jibneha family. However, the settlers in the area continue to claim the caves as Jewish holy sites, and have conducted a number of confrontations on the family’s land since the case’s closure.
"It was a nightmare," al-Helo said of the experience. From the afternoon of 3 January until 5am the next day there was "non-stop shelling in our area. We had F-16 firing missiles out front, tanks shelling all around."
Al-Helo explained how the family endured the early days of air and land shelling, remaining in their home as they believed it was the safest place to stay. Nonetheless, they'd taken precautions.
"We were sleeping there," al-Helo said, pointing at a tight space under the stairwell on the west side of the house. "It was the most protected place from the shelling. There are no windows there, and everywhere else in the house our windows had shattered. But we didn't expect the Israeli ground troops to enter."
At 5:30am on 4 January, the Israeli foot soldiers did enter. The family of 14 was still huddled under the stairwell when Israeli soldiers stormed the outer gate.
"My father opened the back door and stepped out. They shot without warning. He died immediately," said al-Helo.
The soldiers then ordered the rest of the family to leave the house. "Get out, get out," al-Helo said they screamed. When he tried to remain in the house with his father Fouad's body he said the Israeli soldiers told him "If you stay here we'll kill you."
They left, trying in vain to find shelter. "We were knocking at the doors of people's houses along the road, desperate to get in. Everyone was afraid to open, or had left their home," said al-Helo.
The terrified family had only walked a few hundred meters down a back lane before Israeli snipers began shooting at them, hitting one-year-old Farah in the abdomen. The girl, whose name means "joy," didn't immediately die, instead suffered for the next few hours, intestines falling out. Her mother, Shireen, breast-fed her in a desperate attempt to comfort the baby.
The couple's six-year-old daughter, Sejah, and Amer's 23-year-old brother, Abdullah, were also hit, in the elbow and back, respectively, Abdullah's bullet piercing his right lung.
With the renewed shooting, the family scrambled behind a dirt mound Israeli bulldozers had created and huddled there for safety. "We were there for about 14 hours," al-Helo said, "then they released the dogs." Incredible as it seems, al-Helo stated that at around 8pm Israeli soldiers sent dogs to frighten the family out from behind their earthen shelter.
Al-Helo related his confusion and frustration at Israeli soldiers who upon capturing the family finally offered basic first aid for the injured -- what he says was iodine and bandages.
"Why did you kill my father, my daughter?" al-Helo remembers shouting at them instead of gratefully accepting the late aid.
At the same time when the two injured were detained and the rest of the family sent away, Amer al-Helo was abducted by Israeli soldiers who blindfolded and handcuffed him. He said he was taken away to "somewhere in Israel," where for five days he was held and interrogated. "For the first three days I wasn't given any water or allowed to use a toilet. They asked me questions like 'where do the fighters fire from? Where's Gilad?'" referring to the Israeli soldier captured two years earlier along the border with Gaza.
Finally, after five days of captivity, during which al-Helo said he could only think about his dead daughter, father and older brother, Israeli soldiers brought him back to the border and released him.
The brother in question, Muhammad, had been killed earlier on 3 January by two drone missiles. The first seriously injured him and the second hit him as he tried to crawl away.
Days later, an emotionally-drained al-Helo retold his story, ending the testimony with his homecoming two weeks later.
Returning the day after Israel's unilateral ceasefire, the al-Helo family found a house reeking of death and destruction.
Only then did they find the body of Fouad, Amer al-Helo's father. For two weeks, the Red Crescent and rescue services were prevented by Israeli forces from reaching the body, as was the case in most areas in Zeitoun, eastern Jabaliya, northern Gaza, northwestern Gaza and elsewhere. Although the family continued to appeal to the Red Cross to coordinate with Israeli officials, it wasn't until Israel declared its cessation of shelling that they could begin to search for Fouad. They finally found his decayed body in a lot filled with rubbish across the road.
"We looked for eight hours and couldn't find him," al-Helo said. "Finally, we saw his foot sticking out of the cacti across the road. They had buried him with rubble and dirt."
The entire three-story house was tarnished from direct hits by Israeli missiles, riddled with gunshot holes throughout the building, and sniper holes bored into different walls overlooking strategic points outside, to the filth the occupying soldiers had left inside. No room in al-Helo's house was left undamaged.
A broken clock still hanging on a bullet-riddled wall silently testifies the time at which Israeli soldiers shot up that particular room: shortly before 6am, shortly after having shot Fouad dead.
Amer al-Helo said that the Israeli soldiers stole money, phones, gold jewelry and anything valuable from the home. Not only that, but they destroyed al-Helo's livelihood; the delivery van he had used to earn a living, sits a burned-out shell in front of the damaged house.
"We don't stay here at night now," al-Helo said, gesturing at the ruined walls and clothes strewn on the floors. "It's too painful to be here. We're staying with relatives in Shejaiye [neighborhood]." His house in shambles, the stench of death still pungent, and the fields across the road torn up from invading Israeli tanks and bulldozers, it will be a long time before staying in the house could be easy.
Sitting on chairs outside the ravaged house, just meters from where Fouad was shot dead, Amer al-Helo began to speak of his children while his uncle served tea.
"The only thing that makes me happy are my children. When they are happy, it lifts my heart. I used to pile them into the car and drive them to the beach," he said, smiling sadly. "I had said that Farah was our last child, I'd said 'we are blessed, we have many children,'" he recalled.
With one less child al-Helo hasn't changed his decision. "We won't have any more. Why would I have another child? So the Israeli soldiers can kill them?"
A shattered al-Helo added, "You couldn't ask me anything more painful: to see my father shot before me, my daughter. To hear her cries. They killed me three times those two days, you know: first they killed my brother, then my father, then my daughter."
All images by Eva Bartlett.
Eva Bartlett is a Canadian human rights advocate and freelancer who spent eight months in 2007 living in West Bank communities and four months in Cairo and at the Rafah crossing. She is currently based in the Gaza Strip after having arrived with the third Free Gaza Movement boat in November. She has been working with the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza, accompanying ambulances while witnessing and documenting the ongoing Israeli air strikes and ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
A press conference will be held outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL, on Tuesday 24 February at 11am. Present will be Solicitor Phil Shiner and Gaza Legal Aid Fund trustee Mary Nazzal-Batayneh.
Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian non-governmental organization will tomorrow, Tuesday 24 February 2009, begin historical legal proceedings against the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, David Milliband, Defense Secretary, John Hutton and Trade & Industry (now the Secretary of State for Business Enterprise, and Regulatory Reform), and Peter Mandelson.
Al Haq are making an application for judicial review of a policy decision by the three Secretaries of State that they will not change their position with respect to the UK’s relations with Israel so that the UK Government is fully compliant with international law.
The UK’s international obligations insofar as the attacks on civilians in Gaza are concerned include not rendering aid or assistance to Israel or recognizing the illegal situation it has created in Gaza, and to co-operating with other states using all lawful means to bring the situation to an end.
In relation to the UK’s obligation not to render aid or assistance is concerned it should be noted that in the first quarter of 2008 there was a huge increase in the amount of arms related products to Israel approved through the UK arms export licensing system. The amount approved was £20m. By way of comparison, the amount approved for the whole of 2004 was £12m.
The papers on an application for judicial review are being lodged on 24 February in the High Court of Justice by Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers prior to the press conference being held that morning at 11.00am.
Shawan Jabarin, General Director of Al-Haq, which works to protect human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories says
“Considering the UK’s historical role in the region and its continued arms sales to Israel, Al-Haq has come to the UK with the belief that the judicial system of the UK will provide, at the very least, hope for the Palestinian people and again provide meaning to the principle of justice and international law. The time for hiding behind words has ended. ”
Phil Shiner (Public Interest Lawyers) who is leading the case on behalf of Al-Haq says
"The UK has clear international law obligations to do something effective to stop Israel's attacks on Palestinian civilians. It must cooperate with other states using all lawful means to bring the situation to an end and it must stop giving aid and assistance to Israel. This means that the UK's continuing policy of arms trading with Israel is completely out of bounds, as is our role in continuing with the EU preferential trading agreement. The point of this case is to make the Government focus on what it is legally obliged to do, beyond ineffective hand-wringing pleas for Israel to behave properly, which, to date, have fallen on deaf ears."
Mary Nazzal-Batayneh, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Human Rights Legal Aid Trust which launched the Gaza Legal Aid Fund to fund legal actions by Palestinian civilians says:
"We have been very encouraged by the global support for the Gaza Legal Aid Fund which seeks to provide Palestinians with the much needed financial assistance to be able to access international courts of justice. Israel and its allies must be sent a clear message that they are not above the law; that they are not immune; and that they will be held accountable.”
His wife, Zin Aamer, 33, who lives in south London, told The Independent that the return of the Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed to the UK on Monday was a bittersweet moment for her and the children. "The kids keep asking me why wasn't Shaker on the plane with Binyam. Of course, I am happy for Binyam but the kids don't understand why they can't see their father and why it is taking so long. I have to explain to them that he has not been forsaken, that they must be patient."
Mr Aamer, his wife and their three young children left London in 2001 to go to Afghanistan to work with a children's charity. But Mr Aamer, a Saudi Arabian national who came to the UK in 1996, was captured in December 2001 by American forces who claim he was fighting with the Taliban. Reprieve, the human rights group which is representing him, maintains that he was sold by villagers to the Northern Alliance, who in turn sold him to the Americans.
From there, he was transferred to Bagram airbase then flown on to Guantanamo Bay. For more than four years, he has been held in solitary confinement because the Guantanamo camp guards believe he had too much influence over other detainees. He has never seen his youngest son, six-year-old Abdul Salam.
The last contact Mrs Aamer had with her husband was a letter from Guantanamo last August. "Of course it was a happy moment seeing Binhyam come back," she said. "But they are all very confused, especially Johaina. She is 11 now and can remember playing with her father before the war started [in Afghanistan]."
Mr Aamer's lawyers have filed a 16-page claim arguing for his removal from isolation in Guantanamo Bay prison. He claims he was tortured by beatings, sleep deprivation and exposure to temperature extremes, which brought him to the point of a mental breakdown.
His claims, if true, could prove to be very damaging to the US government which has always maintained it uses reasonable force in its treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. His lawyers believe Britain provided assistance to America during his initial interrogation in Afghanistan and in Guantanamo.
It is understood that Mr Aamer and Binyam Mohamed, who alleges that the UK was complicit in his alleged toture, came to be friends during their detention in Cuba. The British government has recently begun pressing the US administration for Mr Aamer's release.
And it is understood that a party of Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials who visited Mr Mohamed this month, before he was cleared for release, also had limited contact with Mr Aamer, who has lost half his body weight after a series of hunger strikes. A spokesman for the FCO said the Americans had told the British Government that they still had security concerns about Mr Aamer and would not release him.
The return of Mr Aamer to the UK would end the British Government's involvement with the repatriation programme of the 243 remaining inmates. But human rights lawyers at Reprieve say that at least two other men have a claim to British residency or help from the UK government. Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian national and former British resident, is in his seventh year of detention at Guantanamo. The US military has cleared him for release but Mr Belbacha so fears what awaits him in Algeria that he has opted to wait in Guantanamo until another country offers him refuge.
Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed is an Algerian citizen who left Algeria to seek freedom and greater economic opportunities in Europe, and, like Haker Aamer, he was captured and sold to US soldiers in Pakistan after fleeing from Afghanistan. He has lived in France, Italy and the UK and wants to return to Europe to work after he is released from Guantanamo. He was cleared for transfer in 2007.
Zin Aamer, who has been treated for depression during her husband's absence, says it was Shaker's idea to leave their London home in the summer of 2001 because he felt frustrated at not having a proper home to bring up his family.
"The council couldn't find us a flat or house in London so we decided to leave. Shaker was always helping people in England and he wanted to help the children of Afghanistan, but wasn't sure whether he should be teaching or help build a hospital."
For a few weeks, the family shared a house with Moazzam Begg, a Briton freed from Guantanamo in 2005, who had also gone to Kabul to help children in Afghanistan. But when the American invasion started, the country became a very dangerous place. "The bombs were falling every night and we had to leave the city to stay in a village," said Mrs Aamer. "The children were terrified and kept telling us to be quiet in case our noise made the bombs come.
"Shaker was frightened too and I can remember his face now, it was almost as pale as the colour of the cream suit he was wearing. Shaker left the village to find a safer place for us. But in the middle of the night the villagers told us we had to go with a group travelling to the safety of Pakistan."
Mrs Aamer said: "I was pregnant with our fourth child and we were all scared. In the end, I just went. I didn't see Shaker again. Sometimes I regret that decision. What if I stayed? Would we all be together now?"