Sat, Oct 22, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Hunger strikers at Guantanamo allege force-fed torture

THE GUARDIAN AND AP , WASHINGTON AND SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO

Prisoners in Guantanamo Bay on hunger strike have alleged US troops punished them by repeatedly inserting and removing dirty feeding tubes until the detainees vomited blood.

Declassified notes released by defense lawyers for three men being held at the prison camp on Cuba said the prisoners came to view the large feeding tubes -- described as the thickness of a finger -- as objects of torture.

"They were forcibly shoved up the detainees' noses and down into their stomachs," the lawyers reported to a federal judge in August. "No anesthesia or sedative was provided."

According to their affidavits force feedings resulted in prisoners "vomiting up substantial amounts of blood. When they vomited up blood, the soldiers mocked and cursed at them, and taunted them with statements like `look what your religion has brought you.'"

Yousef al Shehri, 21, of Saudi Arabia, said guards removed a nasal feeding tube from one prisoner and reinserted it into another without cleaning it first. Another said a Navy doctor put a tube in his nose, down his throat and "kept moving the tube up and down" until he finally "started violently throwing up blood."

A military spokesman for the Guantanamo detention center, said there was no truth to the allegations. The prison camp has around 500 inmates; 25 detainees are on hunger strike, including 22 being force-fed, according to the spokesman.

Protest

Defense lawyers who have visited the prison recently say their clients have insisted they will maintain the protest until conditions at the prison camp improve or they are released.

In a statement filed in federal court in Washington, John Edmondson said that only doctors or nurses are allowed to remove or insert feeding tubes and that they use a lubricant and offer an anesthetic to the hunger striking prisoner to ease any pain.

The handling of the hunger striking prisoners "equals or exceeds the standard of care available at accredited hospitals in the United States," Edmondson, a Navy captain, said in the affidavit. His statement was a response to a lawsuit by defense attorneys who are seeking more frequent access to their clients and copies of their medical records.

Prisoners also said the taunting treatment was intended to persuade them to end the hunger strike that began Aug. 9.

A military spokesman denied allegations of abuse but did not know specifics about the use of feeding tubes and treatment of striking detainees at the hospital.

Guards

Edmondson said guards do not verbally or physically harass the detainees in the prison hospital.

"Their presence in the detention hospital is solely to ensure the safety and security of both detainees and medical staff," he said.

Guantanamo officials said this latest hunger strike began with 76 detainees protesting their confinement. Defense lawyers cited other reasons as well, including complaints about food and water, alleged abuse by guards and interrogators and their desire to either face trial or be released.

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