18 Detainees Force-Fed at Guantanamo


# More than a quarter of the 502 'enemy combatants' at
the prison have joined in a hunger strike over alleged
maltreatment.

By Richard A. Serrano, Times Staff Writer

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-gitmo14sep14,1,6724049.story

WASHINGTON  A hunger strike at the U.S. naval base at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has grown to 128 prisoners who
are demanding that they be immediately released or
granted access to a legal process to defend themselves
against blanket allegations that they are terrorists.

The strike, begun more than five weeks ago, has forced
military authorities to hospitalize 18 of the
prisoners and to take extraordinary measures to
force-feed them.

Some detainees have vowed to die if necessary, but the
Pentagon insists that it will not let anyone starve to
death.

"Everyone is stable," Sgt. Justin Behrens, a prison
spokesman, said of those hospitalized. "We're going to
take care of everyone."

More than a quarter of the 502 detainees have refused
food and liquids at various times as the protest has
gained momentum since it began Aug. 8.

Along with demanding that they be freed or put on
trial, some detainees also are complaining of assaults
by guards and continuing to allege that there has been
desecration of Muslim religious items. Behrens denied
that detainees were being abused.

"The guards here are professional and are using
standard operating procedures," he said. "Officers are
on the cellblocks all the time to make sure this never
happens."

Nevertheless, some of the complaints from prisoners,
natives of 40 different countries sent to the prison
after it opened in 2002, are being disclosed by
attorneys.

All 502 have been designated "enemy combatants." Four
have been charged with specific crimes and are
awaiting trial before military commissions.

Maj. Jane Boomer, a Pentagon spokeswoman assigned to
the Office of Military Commissions, said that the
military commissions were on hold, awaiting a decision
on whether the Supreme Court would grant a challenge
to the legality of the process.

"We are very, very patient here in Guantanamo,"
prisoner Binyam Mohammed wrote in an Aug. 11 letter to
his lawyer, explaining why the hunger strike was
begun. "But finally enough was enough."

He joined the hunger strike, vowing that "I do not
plan to stop until I either die or we are respected."

Mohammed, a 27-year-old native of Ethiopia who was
raised in England, is suspected of training in an
Afghan paramilitary camp and of engaging in terrorist
plots. After Sept. 11, he fled to Pakistan, where he
was captured.

Another hunger striker, Hisham Sliti of Tunisia, told
his lawyers that soldiers threw a chair and a
mini-refrigerator at him in an effort to get him to
talk.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York legal
advocacy group that has helped some of the prisoners,
found in a new report that the protest followed
several smaller hunger strikes, as well as a mass
suicide attempt in which nearly two dozen prisoners
tried to hang themselves in their cells two years ago.

The group said that frustration among prisoners was
growing. The prisoners "need fair trials with proper
legal representation," the center said in a report on
the hunger strike.

The group quoted prisoner Shaker Aamer, a Saudi who
later moved to London and was captured by allied
forces in Afghanistan, as saying that the hunger
strike was triggered when authorities placed some
detainees who belonged to a "prisoners council" in
isolation cells.

"The government's effort to detain hundreds of Muslim
men outside the rule of law has greatly undermined our
nation's moral standing in the international
community," the Center for Constitutional Rights said
in the report. It "threatens the values of justice and
fairness for which our country stands."

The Pentagon defines a hunger striker as anyone who
passes up nine meals over 72 hours.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide by the end of
this month whether to hear the challenge about the
legality of military commissions.

If it does decide to hear the challenge, the high
court probably would not decide the case until
sometime next year. 





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