Sun, Aug 16, 2015 - Page 7 News List

US denies Guantanamo Bay hunger-striker release


US Department of Justice lawyers on Friday blocked a legal request that a Guantanamo Bay detainee who weighs just 33.5kg after an eight-year hunger strike be released for health reasons.

Lawyers for the 36-year-old Yemeni detainee Tariq Ba Odah said the decision indicated that US President Barack Obama is unable to control growing divisions in his administration and achieve his goal of closing the detention facility before he leaves office in 2017.

Ba Odah’s defense attorney, Omar Farah, said the filing, which was sealed, reflected the Obama administration’s inability to develop a coherent approach to transfer Ba Odah and 51 other detainees cleared for release.

“It is a transparent attempt to hide the fact that the Obama administration’s interagency process for closing Guantanamo is an incoherent mess,” said Farah, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Amnesty International USA also condemned the decision.

A Justice Department representative said the filing was sealed because it contained medical information. The filing was not intended to slow the transfer of Ba Odah out of Guantanamo and a public version of the filing would be released, the representative said.

The Yemeni detainee has been force-fed by nasal tube since he stopped eating solid food in 2007. His weight loss over the past 18 months raised fears among his lawyers that he could die of starvation.

US intelligence and military officials cleared Ba Odah for release five years ago from the detention center, where 116 men are imprisoned on a US Navy base in Cuba 14 years after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Pentagon officials said transferring Ba Odah could create an incentive for future hunger strikes.

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