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Over half of Gitmo prisoners join hunger strike – military official

Published time: April 21, 2013 13:50
Edited time: April 21, 2013 20:07
AFP Photo / John Moore

AFP Photo / John Moore

The number of inmates taking part in the Guantanamo Bay hunger strike has reached 84, which is just over a half of the prison’s population, US military officials have stated, as reported by AP news agency.

Follow RT’s day-by-day timeline on Gitmo hunger strike

The hunger strike in the infamous US detention center is steadily growing with 32 detainees joining other protesters refusing to eat in just the past few days.

A military spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Samuel House said that 16 of the 84 prisoners are being force-fed, while five have been hospitalized.

However, the lives of those hospitalized men are not under threat, the official assured in a statement.

Lawyers for Guantanamo inmates stated earlier that the strike is more widespread than the military acknowledges and the majority of all 166 prisoners are participating.

The hunger strike has been going on for almost three months, attracting outcry from the international community and human right organizations.

Red Cross President Peter Maurer, in particular, criticized the force-feeding of inmates as a solution to the hunger strike by the inmates.

The UN also responded to the situation at the end of March, saying that they were looking into the details of the mass hunger strike. The UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay also “repeatedly regretted that the US Government has not closed Guantanamo Bay.”

AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards

Just over a week ago, Russia released the ‘Guantanamo list’, naming 18 Americans banned from entering the Russian Federation over their alleged human rights violations, indefinite detention of prisoners at the facility and torture.

The list was aimed as a direct response to the so-called Magnitsky list revealed by the US.

The news about the expanding strike comes just a few days after clashes between the prisoners and guards erupted, resulting in two soldiers receiving head wounds and five prisoners sustaining injuries.

The hunger strike is a protest by the detainees against their imprisonment without charge or trial for the past 11 years. It started after prison officials allegedly searched the inmates’ Korans for contraband, something the Guantanamo authorities denied.

British Gitmo inmate may never return home

In a separate development reported by The Guardian, it is feared the last British resident in Guantanamo may never be allowed to return to his family in London, because of an alleged “secret deal” between US authorities, Saudi Arabia and the British security services.

Shaker Aamer has been in the Cuban detention facility for more than 11 years, but was cleared for release in 2007.

However, earlier this month, two Metropolitan Police detectives interviewed Aamer to gather allegations that MI5 and MI6 were complicit in his torture. Were he return to London he would almost certainly be a key witness in Scotland Yard’s investigation into allegations of British complicity in torture in the post 9/11 years.

His legal team alleges that the US, Saudi Arabia - where he was born - and the UK security services are trying to ensure he never goes back to the UK.

However, officials in Saudi Arabia have threatened him with imprisonment.

“It seems highly probable that the British security services are in bed with the Americans on trying to keep Shaker from coming back to the UK. We can only hope that Hague will hold them to account,” Clive Stafford Smith, director of the legal charity reprieve, which is representing Shaker, told The Guardian.