[Ppnews] Guantánamo hunger strike much bigger than reported, rights group claims

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 21 18:22:13 EDT 2013

  Guantánamo hunger strike much bigger than reported, rights group claims

Pentagon accused of 'not admitting scale and scope' of strike, with 
reports of 130 inmates protesting mistreatment of Qu'rans

March 21, 2013

A campaign group representing some of the inmates at Guantánamo Bay 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/guantanamo-bay> said on Thursday that a 
mass hunger strike currently taking place at the controversial prison 
camp is far larger than US military 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-military> authorities have admitted.

On Wednesday, General John Kelly told a congressional committee that 24 
Guantánamo prisoners were on "hunger strike light" and eating "a bit, 
but not a lot" as a way of protesting against allegations that the 
Qu'ran had been mishandled by military staff, and also to highlight 
their continuing detention without trial.

But Omar Farah, who works on Guantánamo issues for the New York-based 
Center for Constitutional Rights, said that one of his seven clients at 
the base, Yemeni inmate Fahad Ghazy, had recently told him that the 
strike involved many more inmates. "They [the Pentagon] are not 
admitting the scale and scope of the hunger strike," Farah said.

On March 14, Farah said, Ghazy had told him in a phone call that all but 
two inmates in Guantánamo's Camp Six were on hunger strike, and that 
that likely represented almost 130 people. Ghazy had added that some 
detainees at Camp Five were also on hunger strike. There are about 166 
inmates at Guantánamo, of whom about half have been cleared for transfer 
or release. Nearly all inmates have been held without charge -- some for 
as long as 11 years.

Farah warned that if the hunger strike continued, some inmates could 
die. "We are afraid for some of the mens' lives. If someone persists 
with not eating food they can suffer severe physical damage and may 
die," he said.

Kelly, who vociferously denied any charge that Qu'rans had been 
mishandled, did admit that eight detainees had lost enough weight that 
they were now being force fed via tubes. But he insisted there was no 

"[They] present themselves daily, calmly, in a totally co-operative way, 
to be fed through a tube," he said, adding that he believed those 
prisoners were also eating by themselves when they were in their cells.

The clashing versions of events are the latest in a long line of 
controversies that have dogged the Guántanamo prison since it was set up 
to house suspects caught up in the so-called "war on terror". The 
process of detaining terror suspects has outraged civil liberties groups 
in the US and abroad, especially as dealing with the suspects legally 
has been painfully slow or non-existent.

President Obama vowed to shut the camp in his first year of office, but 
his efforts were stymied by Congress and have apparently been shelved. 
Earlier this year, the State Department office meant to deal with 
resettling Guantánamo prisoners was closed down.

Even Kelley admitted that the inmates' morale was extremely poor. "They 
had great optimism that Guantánamo would be closed. They were 
devastated, apparently, when the president backed off," he said.

Meanwhile, those advocating prisoners' rights have also criticised a 
recent announcement that will end the only civilian flight that goes to 
the base. Earlier this week Florida firm IBC Travel said it had been 
ordered to stop flying to the base from May 1 at the latest.

That will mean lawyers, journalists and human rights 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/human-rights> workers will only be able 
to get to the base aboard a military flight -- something that requires 
permission from the Pentagon. "It will certainly make it a lot more 
difficult to get there at a time when we all need increased access," 
said Farah.

The only major trial to emerge from Guantanamo Bay has been a military 
tribunal held for alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammed and 
four others, which began last year. By contrast, Osama bin Laden's 
son-in-law Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who was captured earlier this month, 
will be prosecuted in a criminal court in New York on charges of 
conspiring to kill Americans.

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