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Guantanamo prisoners ready to ‘embrace death’

March 27th, 2013
12:30 PM ET

By Samuel Burke & Ken Olshansky, CNN

More and more detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison are joining a hunger strike to protest their conditions.

The U.S. government says 31 prisoners have now stopped eating. At least 11 of them have lost so much weight that they are now being force-fed.

Some of these detainees have been in detention for more than 11 years with no trial and no end in sight, even though many have long-since been cleared for transfer to their home countries, or to a third country.

The hunger strikes started in February, when prisoners claim that guards searched through their personal effects, including their Qurans — a practice they protested.

A military spokesman denies any mishandling of the prisoners' holy books.

In testimony earlier this month, the Marine Corps commander overseeing Guantanamo pointed to a more fundamental reason for the hunger strike.

“They had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed,” Gen. John F. Kelly said. “They were devastated when the president backed off - at least their perception - of closing the facility.”

Carlos Warner is a public defender representing 11 Guantanamo detainees, two of whom are among are hunger strikers. One of them, a Kuwaiti named Fayez al-Kandari, has lost more than 30 pounds in recent weeks.

Warner just returned from Guantanamo, where he described the conditions as “dire” in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

A change in military commander at Guantanamo Bay sparked the current situation, Warner told Amanpour.

“Col. Bogdan lit the fuel on fire by his oppressive search of the men and taking away the things that they had grown accustomed to for years, like isomats,” which Warner described as a type of insulated bed mat the prisoners had been sleeping on. In the midst of that situation, Warner said the search of Qurans took place and became a rallying point for the detainees there.

“This is about frustration; this is about the Obama administration ignoring Guantanamo in every way, shape and form.”

Warner describes himself as a liberal who supported President Obama, but is disappointed that Obama has completely ignored Guantanamo and blamed Republicans in Congress – an argument Warner rejects.

“There's not one person in this administration that I can call and say I need to talk somebody in the White House about the hunger strike.”

Warner said there had been one person in the State Department, Daniel Fried, whose job was to oversee the closing down of Guantanamo; but now, his office has actually been closed down.

This leaves Warner’s clients in “indefinite detention” for life, he said. “It leaves them with the prospect of the only way we leave Guantanamo is death. And unfortunately, I think the men are ready to embrace this. And I don't see the military backing off.”

Warner told Amanpour the military rejected a possible solution his clients offered up: “The men wanted to voluntarily surrender the Qurans. They would rather not have their Qurans than have them searched in the manner that they'd been searched. This would get them eating tomorrow.”

This was previously allowed in Guantanamo from 2006 to 2007, according to Warner. He said the new command either is unaware of that; or is unwilling to go that step.

“That would not solve the problem. But it would get the men eating again,” Warner said.

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soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Billy Qaeda

    Close Git-Mo...leave the prisoners there unattended...let them rot.

    Personally I've had enough of thse Aye-Rab terrorists & as a devote peacenik for me to say enough is enough well, rid the earth of them.

    Backwards ignorant morons.

    March 27, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Reply
    • Matt

      Let me quote a legal expert who is involved in the Guantanamo trials: ""Two-thirds of the population are detainees cleared for transfer. They were caught by accident, their life has been ruined, everything has been taken from them."

      In other words: two thirds of the inmates are proven innocent. By arresting them indefinitely and denying them basic rights, the United States is using measures typical for dictatorships. For the past 10 years, the actions of America have been not much different from the regimes in Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

      Personally, I've had enough of these american terrorists & as a devote peacenik for me to say enough is enough well, bring them to justice in an international court of law.

      March 28, 2013 at 10:35 am | Reply
  2. Brad Welch

    Not all the prisoners in Gitmo are terrorists.

    March 27, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  3. Ismail Shah

    Its a shame and in that a rancid one . We as free and just people , who gloat about freedom and equality. It had haapened to madiba for 28 yrs and it is happening to men who oppose oppression and injustice daily . What happened to the promise of a American President in closing the facility , is Obama too of a same lot of war mongers and charade spreaders.

    March 28, 2013 at 9:18 am | Reply
  4. Abbas

    i hate America for its double standard. They say so much about human right, preach it, condemn countries like China, Iran, Zimbabwe and others who do not support their hegemonic policy but they (America) are the worst violator of human right. How could you detain someone for more than 10 years and not charged to court. its highly unfortunate and at variance with what the almighty America preaches and claimed it stand for.

    March 28, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Reply
  5. Marshalldoc

    Kudos to Christiane for allowing a guest the opportunity to say what's been desperately needed to be said in the MSM (it's been said for a decade in the progressive media). Had only CNN had the same integrity during the hype for the 'War on Terra'. The abuse of the Guantanamo detainees is yet another blot on America's ever-lengthening record of human wrongs.

    March 29, 2013 at 10:52 am | Reply
  6. Haddy

    These people expect better treatment than this what is obama doing about it?

    March 31, 2013 at 2:41 am | Reply
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