More Join Guantanamo Hunger Strike

A sentry surveys the compound at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. As many as 200 of the prisoners may be on a hunger strike.
A sentry surveys the compound at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. As many as 200 of the prisoners may be on a hunger strike. (By Scott Higham -- The Washington Post)
By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A month-old hunger strike at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has grown to include at least 128 detainees, 18 of whom are forcibly receiving intravenous fluids or nutrition in the prison hospital, military officials and detainee lawyers said yesterday.

The captives are protesting their indefinite imprisonment and what they describe as beatings administered by the prison's Immediate Response Force (IRF)-- squads of military personnel who are dispatched to put down disturbances in detainees' cells. Some have said they will refuse to eat until the military gives them a fair hearing or they die, according to their attorneys.

Military officials first acknowledged the hunger strike, the second of the summer, on Aug. 25. Since then, the number of people hospitalized and in serious physical danger has grown to 18, according to Maj. Jeffrey J. Weir, a Guantanamo Bay spokesman. He said that step was taken to prevent any of the approximately 520 prisoners at the U.S. Navy base prison from engaging in a "form of suicide."

The hunger strike began in the first week of August, and, according to newly declassified accounts of detainees provided by their lawyers, has gradually spread across several camps at the prison. Detainees allege they have been severely beaten and are deeply frustrated at their indefinite detentions. Some have been held for 3 1/2 years without facing charges.

Lawyers for the prisoners assert that more than 200 detainees are refusing food. An earlier hunger strike in June and July ended after military authorities met with a small group of detainees and promised improvements in their living conditions.

"They truly feel they have nothing left," said attorney David Remes, who represents several Yemeni detainees. "I'm not sure what the end point will be. But I do predict there will be death."

Binyam Mohammed, formerly of London, whose account was the first declassified, told his attorney on Aug. 11 of the new hunger strike. "I do not plan to stop until I die or we are respected," he said. "People will definitely die."

Another detainee, Libyan-born Omar Deghayes, told his lawyer he had not eaten in five weeks. "Many more people have fallen unconscious. . . . More are taken to hospital," he said.

Military officials have characterized the protest as a "fast" of prisoners aimed at grabbing attention, and say it involves 128 prisoners. They say its significance is exaggerated by their lawyers.

Weir said no detainees are in danger of dying and that the military's treatment is preventing them from losing critical nutrition. Of the 18 people hospitalized, 13 are being force-fed through nasal tubes and five are being given intravenous hydration.

On Aug. 25, the military said that 89 detainees were fasting and seven were hospitalized and receiving forced fluids or nutrition.

Weir said yesterday that the military does not allow beatings of detainees, and he believes the refusal to eat is part of a campaign to press for their transfer or release.

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