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U.S. Cites Exception in Torture Ban

Attorneys say Mohammed Bawazir, detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison, above, was subjected to tactics amounting to torture.
Attorneys say Mohammed Bawazir, detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison, above, was subjected to tactics amounting to torture. (By Joe Skipper -- Reuters)

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A spokeswoman for McCain's office did not respond to questions yesterday.

Murphy told the judge the military's claims that it switched tactics to protect Bawazir should not be believed. He noted that on Jan. 11 -- days after the new law passed -- the Defense Department made the identical health determination for about 20 other detainees, all of whom had been engaged in the hunger strike.

Guantanamo Bay officials deny that the tactics constitute torture. They wrote in sworn statements that they are necessary efforts to ensure detainee health. Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood, the facility's commander, wrote that Bawazir's claims of abuse are "patently false."

"In short, he is a trained al Qaida terrorist, who has been taught to claim torture, abuse, and medical mistreatment if captured," Hood wrote. He added that Bawazir allegedly went to Afghanistan to train for jihad and ultimately fought with the Taliban against U.S. troops.

Navy Capt. Stephen G. Hooker, who runs the prison's detention hospital, noted that the hunger strike began on Aug. 8, reached a peak of 131 participants on Sept. 11, and dropped to 84 on Christmas Day. After use of the restraint chair began, only five captives continued not eating.

Hooker wrote that he suspected Bawazir was purging his food after feedings. Bawazir weighed 130 pounds in late 2002, according to Hooker, but 97 pounds on the day he was first strapped to the chair. As of Sunday, his weight was back to 137 pounds, the government said.

Kessler noted with irritation that Hood and Hooker made largely general claims about the group of detainees on the hunger strike in defending the switch to the new force-feeding procedures used on Bawazir.

"I know it's a sad day when a federal judge has to ask a DOJ attorney this, but I'm asking you -- why should I believe them?" Kessler asked Justice Department attorney Terry Henry.

Henry said he would attempt to gather more information from the officials but said there was no legal basis for the court to intervene. Bawazir's weight is back to normal, his health is "robust" and he is no longer on a hunger strike, Henry said.


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