Guantanamo prison draws protests worldwide

By Esteban Israel
Thursday, January 11, 2007; 5:55 PM

GUANTANAMO, Cuba (Reuters) - Demonstrators -- some wearing Guantanamo-style orange jumpsuits -- staged protests from Melbourne to London and Washington on Thursday against the U.S. military prison in Cuba where terrorism suspects have been held for years without trial.

A dozen American peace activists, including Cindy Sheehan, marched to the U.S. military enclave in eastern Cuba and held a vigil to demand the detention camp's closure on the fifth anniversary of its creation. They chanted "Guantanamo prison, place of shame, no more torture in our name."

"If dogs were treated like this in my country, there would be an uprising," Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, said as the group placed flowers by a barbed wire fence 5 miles from the naval base that houses the prison.

About 75 to 100 people were arrested after they entered a federal courthouse in the U.S. capital wearing orange T-shirts, waving banners and chanting slogans against the prison, court spokesman Sheldon Snook said. Those arrested have not yet been charged, he said.

The first Guantanamo detainees were flown shackled, blindfolded and wearing orange suits, and were temporarily housed in cages in the heavily guarded camp five years ago, soon after U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan in response to the September 11 hijacked-airliner attacks.

More than 770 captives have been held at Guantanamo, of whom only 10 have been charged with crimes. About 395 prisoners remain there, suspected of al Qaeda and Taliban links, kept in modern maximum-security cells.

Speaking at U.N. headquarters on Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged that the prison be closed.

Washington has said the camp is necessary to deal with the particular circumstances of its war on terrorism, but President George W. Bush has acknowledged it is hurting the U.S. image.

Bush has made no moves to close Guantanamo and last year signed legislation barring foreign captives from challenging their detention through the U.S. courts.


"I can tell you that we are detaining the right people in Guantanamo, we are detaining them legally, ethically and humanely," Col. Lora Tucker, a U.S. military spokeswoman at Guantanamo, said in an e-mail.

Fourteen Guantanamo prisoners were on a hunger strike to protest their detention, including five who were being force-fed. "These numbers are not what we would consider to be unusual," Tucker said.

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