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Guantanamo hunger strike enters 2nd month

Compiled by Kate Bennion

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, March 18 2013 12:20 p.m. MDT

FILE - In this file photo made June 27, 2006, reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official, U.S. military guards walk within Camp Delta military-run prison, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. Secret documents about detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison reveal new information about some of the men that the United States believes to be terrorists, according to reports about the files released Sunday, April 24, 2011, by several American and European newspapers. The U.S. government criticized the publication as "unfortunate."

Brennan Linsley, File, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

According to some reports, prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are on a hunger strike nearing "critical levels" in its second month, after administrators allegedly confiscated inmates' Qurans, among other personal belongings.

In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Robert Durand, director of public affairs for the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said only nine detainees were hunger striking and five were being fed through tubes.

However, one lawyer reports that his client says almost 100 are striking.

The Australian reports that Pardiss Kebriaei, a New York lawyer representing a detainee from Yemen, says, "My client and other men have reported that most of the detainees in Camp 6 are on strike, except for a small few who are elderly or sick."

Camp 6 houses about 130 of the 166 remaining detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Twelve lawyers have sent a letter to the commander of Guantanamo, Rear Adm. John Smith. According to AFP, "We have received reports of men coughing blood, being hospitalized, losing consciousness, becoming weak and fatigued," said the letter. "We understand that Arabic interpreters employed by the prison have been searching the men's Korans in ways that constitute desecration according to their religious beliefs, and that guards have been disrespectful during prayer times."

According to Guantanamo officials, there was no desecration — just a routine inspection. ""To be clear: there have been no incidents of desecration of the Koran by guards or translators, and nothing unusual happened during a routine search for contraband," Durand told AFP. "We take allegations of Koran abuse seriously, and we also watch for manufactured claim of Koran abuse by detainees or outsiders."

The Center for Constitutional Rights sent a letter to military officials and released the following statement: "After more than 11 years of indefinite detention and abuse, humiliation and reprisals, the military appears to be arbitrarily cracking down on the men detained at Guantanamo, going so far as to search their Qur’ans and confiscate family photos. In response, the men have felt that their only option to protest peacefully was to go on hunger strike, which has continued for more than three weeks and is now endangering their lives and health. Its failure to close Guantanamo aside, this administration should be far beyond such cruelties, particularly given how many of the men still trapped there have been unanimously cleared for transfer."

EMAIL: kbennion@deseretnews.com

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