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Gitmo press agent admits 21 inmates taking part in growing hunger strike

Published time: March 18, 2013 19:45
Edited time: May 15, 2013 14:02
Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base, in Cuba. (AFP Photo / Randall Mikkelsen)

Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base, in Cuba. (AFP Photo / Randall Mikkelsen)

Twenty-one men are on hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay, a prison spokesman told AP. Eight men are being fed with a liquid nutrient mix to prevent dangerous weight loss from occurring, while two others are being treated for dehydration.

Navy Capt. Robert Durand added that no one was in immediate danger from the hunger strike.

The remark came just days after Durand downplayed the situation, denying that it was “a widespread phenomenon, as alleged.”

In a letter to RT, Durand said that only six detainees were on hunger strike when the allegations were first made. That number grew to 14 on Friday.

He went on to say “the reports of hunger-strike related deteriorating health and detainees losing massive amounts of weight are simply untrue.”

But attorneys for Guantanamo inmates say the strike is more widespread than the military acknowledges - and a former Gitmo prisoner agrees.

Omar Deghayes was held at Guantanamo Bay for five years before being released without charge. While participating in hunger strikes at the prison, Deghayes recalls hearing the same “rhetoric” from the US military.

“The rhetoric that [Durand] is describing is something that we went through many times when we were inside Guantanamo on hunger strikes. They used to say the same false things that I’m hearing now. They’d say ‘the number is small’ or ‘there is no hunger strike,’ or ‘we treat people with dignity,’” he told RT.

The hunger strike comes two years after US President Barack Obama signed a Defense Authorization Bill that ruled out shutting down Guantanamo, and prevented the transfer of prisoners from the camp.

But despite Obama’s promises to close the facility, Deghayes says conditions are no better than they were under the Bush administration.
 
“When Bush went off and Obama came in, all the false and lying and untrue promises he made haven’t changed anything. If anything, the conditions got worse inside Guantanamo,” he said.

Deghayes says the use of hunger strikes by Guantanamo prisoners is one of the only ways to raise awareness of the prisoners’ conditions.

“There’s no other way to inform the outside world that there’s something seriously bad going on inside Guantanamo bay. And when the prisoners resort to hunger strikes, this means that something seriously provocative has taken place and usually it’s to do with religious and sexual abuse that has been taking place inside,”
he said.

Lawyers for the prisoners say the men are protesting their indefinite confinement and what they consider to be intrusive searches of their Korans. Durand has denied the claims, calling them “outright falsehoods and gross exaggerations.”

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