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Gitmo military attorney: ‘The fact that my client still happens to be breathing is mostly trivial’

Published time: March 28, 2013 04:00

Gitmo prisoners are doomed to languish in cages for the rest of their lives without charges, US military attorney Barry Wingard told RT. Only the day before, his client begged the US to take off its mask and put the hunger strikers out of their misery.

RT: Is this situation as desperate as it’s been reported?

Barry Wingard: Well I can tell you first hand. Greetings from Guantanamo Bay - America’s offshore prison camp. I’ve had meetings with my client all this week and we’ll have another meeting with him tomorrow. As I told you when I was in the station on Saturday the official story was there was no hunger strike. Then it involved seven people, then it involved 14, 21, it wasn’t the largest strike, 24, 25, 26, and today they’re reporting that 32 are involved in the hunger strike. So their story is getting more accurate and in conformity with what I told you then. The hunger strike started the first week in February and it involves the vast majority of prisoners. So they’re coming more online as we go. The whole concept that prisoners are joining this hunger strike is not true. In fact I told you that it’s the vast majority.

RT: What is your client’s condition like?

BW: I’ve never seen him thinner in all of my five years of coming to Guantanamo Bay. I’ve been to Guantanamo Bay more than 50 times. I mean, he’s forgetful and he’s in a bad physical condition. He’s hard to focus, he complains of headaches, he’s weak. He went from 147 pounds down to 107 pounds so he’s lost one-third of his body weight and he continues to lose weight.

RT: Is he prepared to die?

BW: That’s something that he’s going to have to decide. I can’t advise you on whether or not he’s prepared to die but I can tell you that after eleven and a half years of waiting to face charges and an opportunity to defend himself that yes it’s very hopeless here in Guantanamo Bay. Especially in light of the fact that there is no movement in any way shape or form to get any of the 166 individuals out of here. Even the 86 cleared individuals are in no way any process of being released from here so there is complete desperation here.

RT: Is he also concerned about the conditions? We heard last week that the Koran, for example, was being abused by the prison guards, what else is driving him to these measures?

BW: I think the Koran is the fuel that started the fire but I think overall there is a complete desperation. My client, Faiz al-Kandari, is a Kuwaiti. Kuwait is the strongest ally that the United States has in the Middle East. Kuwait, at the behest of the Bush administration, built a rehabilitation center to try to get its sons home. The rehabilitation center cost $40 million. There’s 13,000 American soldiers stationed in Kuwait and Kuwait routinely purchases billions of dollars in American hardware. If he’s not going home at the Behest of the leader of Kuwait then who is going home? There is nothing in the works to send him back to the $40 million rehabilitation center that was constructed specifically for two individuals in Kuwait. You can imagine how difficult it is for the Yemenis and other individuals who come from places where it’s more difficult to return them to.

RT: How do you explain that he’s still confined? Why are you failing to get him out?

BW: I can tell you that we have been robbed of all process, I mean my client has been here at Guantanamo Bay for eleven and a half years. We were told that we would get military commissions. We don’t even have charges let alone an opportunity to get him out. I represent him only because the former administration, the Bush administration, was at least willing to give him a trial or at least try. But as it stands now he has no charges for me to defend. I can’t go to a judge, I can’t call the State Department. It’s complete, complete frustration.

RT: If he dies what will it have achieved?

BW: My client today said it best, ‘I died back when President Obama declared indefinite detention.’ Indefinite detention is the concept that men will languish in animal cages for the rest of their lives without ever having an opportunity to defend themselves. Now when the leader of a country comes out and says ‘Indefinite detention will be applied to Guantanamo Bay.’ Well, that’s when you die. The fact that he still happens to be breathing is mostly trivial.

RT: If that happens will there be a reaction from the media or US authorities that something will be done?

BW: I don’t see any movement in Washington DC. I think there’s a consensus, what I’m seeing, that these are 166 disposable individuals – cleared, not cleared, from Kuwait, from countries that we support: Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia. These people have all demanded their sons back. If it turns out that people begin to die here then yes I do think that it will turn into a different phase but I just hope it doesn’t come to the fact that people need to die or to starve for justice.

RT: What do you say to the people who say inmates are there because they were a threat, or are a threat, to national security? 

BW: I say that’s completely wrong. Guantanamo Bay held 779 prisoners from the start until today. Of those 779, over 600 have been released. Now keep in mind all 779 were subjected to enhanced interrogation and treated very, very poorly. Their one exposure to American prison systems. They come to Guantanamo Bay and 600 of the 779 are released without explanation or an apology. Of the population that’s in Guantanamo Bay’s 166, 86 more are currently scheduled to be released. They are cleared. The United States has acknowledged they did nothing. That puts us up to 700. The military commissions, which favor the prosecutor, if they ever get into effect - the best case scenario for the government – the government promises they can do 30 total prosecutions out of 779 men in Guantanamo Bay. Now that’s a very, very low percentage in a system that favors the prosecutor. So for those who say these men are the worst of the worst? That is Bush-era talk that you should not subscribe to. We tell the government of the United States: Put up, give us a trial or send these men home. But you can’t demand that they die passively in your offshore prison.

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