Reprieve congratulates the town of Amherst, Massachusetts, for approving a resolution to welcome cleared Guantánamo prisoners

Reprieve congratulates the town of Amherst, Massachusetts, for approving a resolution to welcome cleared Guantánamo prisoners.

On Wednesday evening, Amherst Special Town Meeting approved a resolution welcoming one or two cleared Guantánamo Bay detainees to the community once Congress lifts its current ban. It is the first municipality in the USA to do so.

The resolution, Article 14 on the Special Town Meeting warrant, was drafted and presented by Ruth Hooke, a town meeting member and a founding member of Pioneer Valley No More Guantánamos. Amherst Town Meeting is the town’s governing body, with 250 members elected by precinct to represent the town.

Meg Gage was among several members who spoke in support, observing that “of the 225 men still at Guantánamo, more than 70 have been cleared for release…but some of those men can’t return home without risk of torture or death. They need other countries that are willing to take them, and the U.S. — whose government established the prison as a law-free zone — refuses to take any, putting all the pressure on other countries.”

Another member, Carol Gray showed the audience one of the leaflets the military dropped from airplanes, offering large bounties for turning in “terrorists.” She also showed photos and shared brief stories of some of the young men and boys who have been released from the prison.

Prior to Amherst’s resolution, local groups had prepared to welcome 17 Uighur detainees from Guantánamo who had been cleared years earlier.

In 2008, the U.S.’s largest community of ethnic Chinese Uighurs, located in Fairfax County, Virginia, offered to house most of the men. An interfaith coalition in Tallahassee, Florida, arranged housing and other necessities for three of the men with the best English language skills.

Nancy Talanian, director of No More Guantánamos said:

“Amherst’s resolution supports the basic right of freedom for cleared Guantánamo Bay detainees who cannot safely return to their home countries. Without cooperation from U.S. communities and Congress, the long-awaited plan to close Guantánamo may not succeed.”

Clare Algar, Executive Director of Reprieve, said:

“The people of Amherst have shown great courage and humanity; they have done a great thing for their country. The US federal government’s ‘not-in-our-back-yard’ ban is a major problem when it comes to seeking international cooperation to close Guantánamo. Amherst has helped President Obama immeasurably in his mission to close the prison by January 2010.  Reprieve is delighted and thanks the people of Amherst on behalf of our clients, many of whom are cleared for release and remain in Guantanamo simply because there is no safe place for them to go.”

For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099/ 07931592674 or Nancy Talanian, Director, No More Guantánamos, 413-665-1150, ntalanian@nogitmos.org or Ruth Hooke, Amherst Town Meeting Member and Lead Petitioner of Article 14, 413-256-8441Notes for Editors:

REPRIEVE

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves.

Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

NO MORE GUANTANAMOS

No More Guantánamos [http://www.nogitmos.org] is a coalition of concerned U.S. residents, communities, organizations, and attorneys who are working together to ensure justice for the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Bagram air base in Afghanistan, and other offshore prison sites maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon around the world.

The organization formed soon after President Obama’s executive order to close Guantánamo Bay prison by January 22, 2009. Chapter locations besides the Pioneer Valley include Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Fort Collins, Colorado; and Tallahassee, Florida.