Prison hunger strike holds at just over half Guantánamo's prisoners

A prison spokesman says 84 of the 166 captives had missed enough meals or become malnourished enough to meet the detention-center definition of a hunger strike.

by Carol Rosenberg | April 21, 2013

The U.S. military counted more than half the war-on-terror captives at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as hunger strikers Monday, with 10 percent of all detainees being force fed.

Army Lt. Col. Samuel House released the hunger strike figure — 84 of the 166 captives considered hunger strikers, 16 being force-fed via tubes snaked up their nose and into their stomach — in an email Monday morning from the remote base. All news reporters left the base on Friday.

A total of six captives were hospitalized Monday. House, who is the deputy prison camps spokesman, noted that the figures were the same as Sunday, "except we have one more in the hospital for observation."

House said he erred on Saturday by reporting that 17 of the 166 captives were being fed by tubes, typically shackled to a feeding chair inside the prison, not at the hospital. The accurate number was 16, he said, and remained that way all day Sunday and as of Monday morning.

Hunger strike figures have been climbing since U.S. troops raided a communal medium-security compound at the prison camps April 13, and placed about 65 captives under single-cell lockdown. Weeks before, the detainees had covered up most of the prison’s surveillance cameras and kept themselves largely out of view of their U.S. Army guards, the military said, stirring fears that some were planning to commit suicide.

Once the prison was put under lockdown a week ago, the Pentagon prison counted 43 captives as hunger strikers. But military officials predicted they’d add more to their list as the 100-member Navy medical staff assessed former communal captives who were stripped of most of their belongings and confined to austere, single-occupancy cells.

The military refuses to release the names of the men on hunger strike.

But the Justice Department has notified attorneys of those being tube fed. They include two Yemenis in their 30s: Samir Mukbel, whose attorney helped him tell his story last week in a column published in The New York Times, and Yasin Ismael, whose lawyer David Remes said he was notified Tuesday that has client was among those being force fed last week.

This article originally appeared in The Miami Herald on April 21, 2013.

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