Guantanamo Bay hunger strike grows; 41 now being force-fed

The number of hunger strikers being force-fed by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has risen to 41, with the protest showing no signs of abating more than a week after President Obama renewed his commitment to close the detention facility.

The military said in a statement Thursday that 103 detainees are on hunger strike and that 41 of them are being force-fed. The military also said four detainees who are being force-fed are being observed at the hospital.

There are 166 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, a majority of whom are Yemeni nationals. Two years ago, Obama imposed his own moratorium on sending detainees to Yemen because of concerns about security there. But he said he will lift the ban.

Obama also said he will appoint senior envoys at the State and Defense departments to oversee and accelerate the process of moving detainees.

There has been no visible progress on these commitments, but administration officials have cautioned that it will take time to restart the effort to close the facility.

Support of any kind for a group on the State Department’s list is now grounds for a trial on charges of terrorism

A four-month hunger strike, mass force-feedings, and widespread media coverage have at last brought Guantanamo, the notorious offshore prison set up by the Bush administration early in 2002, back into American consciousness. Prominent voices are finally calling on President Obama to close it down and send home scores of prisoners who, years ago, were cleared of wrongdoing.

Still unnoticed and out of the news, however, is a comparable situation in the U.S. itself, involving a pattern of controversial terrorism trials that result in devastating prison sentences involving the harshest forms of solitary confinement.  This growing body of prisoners is made up of Muslim men, including some formerly well-known and respected American citizens.

In the U.S. these days, the very word “terror,” no less the charge of material support for it, invariably shuts down rather than opens any conversation.  Nonetheless, a decade of researching a number of serious alleged terrorism cases on both side of the Atlantic, working alongside some extraordinary human rights lawyers, and listening to Muslim women in Great Britain and the U.S. whose lives were transformed by the imprisonment of a husband, father, or brother has given me a different perspective on such cases.

Perhaps most illuminating in them is the repeated use of what’s called “special administrative measures” to create a particularly isolating and punitive atmosphere for many of those charged with such crimes, those convicted of them, and even for their relatives.  While these efforts have come fully into their own in the post-9/11 era, they were drawn from a pre-9/11 paradigm.  Between the material support statute and those special administrative measures, it has become possible for the government to pre-convict and in many cases pre-punish a small set of Muslim men.

Film on the Case of Murat Kurnaz” A Scandal of Democracy”

“Five Years” examines the fate of the German Guantanamo prisoner Murat Kurnaz. Director Stefan Schaller’s film exposes viewers to the horrific abuse of human rights endured by camp detainees. Jochen Kürten reports

Cinema has always tended to embroil itself in current politics. While there is no standard formula for the genre of political cinema, the success of such films often comes down to the quality of the script and the ability and sensitivity of the director. The German film “5 Jahre Leben” (“Five Years”) is one triumphant example.

The background to the film is the case of Turkish-German Murat Kurnaz. Shortly after the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, Kurnaz was captured in Pakistan and taken to the notorious Guantanamo detention camp where he was imprisoned for five years.

130 Men Are Starving Themselves to Death Because Political Cowardice Keeps Them Locked Up in Guantanamo

86 Guantanamo prisoners have been cleared for release, yet they rot in prison far from their families. Their only hope is for the world to pay attention again. The U.S. military has acknowledged for the first time the number of prisoners on hunger strike at the military prison has topped 100. About a fifth of the hunger strikers are now being force-fed. Lawyers for the prisoners say more than 130 men are taking part in the hunger strike, which began in February. One of the hunger strikers is a Yemeni man named Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel. In a letter published in The New York Times, he wrote: “Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made. I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late.” We speak to attorney Carlos Warner, who represents 11 prisoners at Guantánamo. He spoke to one of them on Friday. “Unfortunately, they’re held because the president has no political will to end Guantánamo,” Warner says. “The president has the authority to transfer individuals if he believes that it’s in the interests of the United States. But he doesn’t have the political will to do so because 166 men in Guantánamo don’t have much pull in the United States. But the average American on the street does not understand that half of these men, 86 of the men, are cleared for release.”

Guantanamo Bay detainees’ frustrations simmering, lawyers and others say

Tensions between detainees and the military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have spiked in recent weeks, with a hunger strike at one of the camps reflecting growing despair that the Obama administration has abandoned efforts to repatriate prisoners cleared for release, according to defense lawyers and other people with access to information about detention operations.

A majority of the 166 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay are housed in Camp 6, a facility that until recently held men the military deemed “compliant.” But the camp, where cell doors are left open so detainees can live communally, has been at the center of a series of escalating protests since January.

The lawyers and human rights advocates said there is a mass hunger strike at Camp 6 that is threatening the health and life of a number of detainees. In a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, they said they have received “alarming reports” that men have lost “over 20 and 30 pounds” and that “at least two dozen men have lost consciousness due to low blood glucose levels.”

A military official said 14 detainees are on hunger strikes and six of them are being force fed. Others have been refusing meals but eating non-perishable food stashed in their cells, officials said.

In a statement, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a spokesman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said “claims of a mass hunger strike . . . are simply untrue.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross, the only outside organization allowed unrestricted visits to the camps, said it visited Guantanamo from Feb. 18 to 23 and “is aware of the tensions at the detention facility.”

Moroccan police dismantles terrorist recruiting cell in Ceuta

20 January 2013
Moroccan police have dismanteled a terrorrist recruitment cell of young Moroccans in Ceuta to be trained in terrorist tactics and then employed at the orders of Al Qaeda related organizations, as reported by the Ministry of Interior. These volunteers received intense training in military operations and suicide bombings. Among the operating cell elements are two former prisoners of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay “with great experience in handling weapons” obtained in training camps of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, according to the statement collected by the official Moroccan news agency, MAP.

Pentagon: 9/11 ‘mastermind’ did not get henna or other dye to color his beard at Guantanamo

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — The Pentagon has given a partial explanation to a Guantanamo mystery: How the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks managed to dye his beard.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s bushy grey beard has been colored a rusty orange during court appearances. Spectators had assumed he used henna, which is used by some Muslims as a hair dye.

A Pentagon spokesman says Mohammed used “natural means,” such as juice from berries that he receives in his meals. Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale said Tuesday that Mohammed did not receive any “outside” means to color his beard.

Mohammed is kept under such heavy security that his lawyers can’t even reveal routine conversations with their client.

He is charged with four other prisoners with aiding and planning the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Judge adjourns weeklong hearing in Sept. 11 case at Guantanamo without ruling on major issues

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — A weeklong hearing into the legal framework for the Sept. 11 terrorism military tribunal came to an end Friday without a ruling on the most significant motions but progress on some issues that must be resolved before the eventual trial.

After hours of often arcane debate at the U.S. base in Cuba, the military judge presiding over the case deferred most decisions until later. Notable among them were proposed rules for handling classified evidence that prosecutors said are necessary to protect national security and defense lawyers argued are overly broad and restrictive.

Army Col. James Pohl heard arguments on nearly 20 motions and did resolve some matters, including issuing a ruling that the five men charged with planning and aiding the Sept. 11 attacks may sit out their pretrial hearings. While the extent of the progress was in dispute, both the chief prosecutor and defense lawyers agreed the case was unlikely to be ready for trial in 2013.

The five defendants facing charges that include terrorism and murder include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a self-styled terrorist mastermind who grew up in Kuwait and attended college in North Carolina. He condemned the U.S. in a lecture to the court on Wednesday as he wore a camouflage vest that had been approved by the judge.

The judge heard lengthy arguments on a motion from the defense asking the judge to decide that the constitutional rights recognized in civilian criminal trials will apply in the special tribunals for war-time offenses. Prosecutors argued it was too soon to make that determination and the judge deferred a ruling.

Most of the arguments centered on the proposed security rules, including provisions that the defense said will prevent the five prisoners from publicly disclosing what happened to them while detained in secret CIA prisons overseas. The U.S. government says they were subjected to “enhanced interrogation”; critics say it was torture.

Lawyers for the defendants said the proposed rules would prevent them from using what happened in the CIA prisons to challenge statements the men made to authorities or to argue that they shouldn’t get the death penalty. It would also prevent the public from learning details about the harsh interrogations.

Guantanamo prisoners charged in Sept. 11 attacks seek court recess on Fridays, during Ramadan

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Lawyers for five Guantanamo Bay prisoners charged in the Sept. 11 attacks are asking a military court to put their legal proceedings on hold during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The lawyers also ask that no court sessions be held on Fridays, when many devout Muslims seek not to work.

Defense lawyers argue in court motions unsealed Friday that the court has an obligation to respect the men’s faith and their need to fast and pray during Ramadan, which comes in late summer this year.

Prosecutors say any blanket restriction would make it too difficult to schedule hearings.

The five defendants include the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. They face the death penalty if convicted. Their next hearings are scheduled to start Aug. 8, during Ramadan.

Chicago lawyer wears Muslim garb while defending Gitmo 5 client

Bormann is defending Walid bin Attash, one of five top al-Qaidaoperatives on trial in Guantanamo Bay for allegedly conspiring in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The five men, who have come to be known collectively as the Gitmo 5, were arraigned there Saturday.

It was then that Bormann gained national notice, and a measure of criticism, for appearing in court in traditional Muslim clothing that left only her face showing and for asking one woman on the government team to consider dressing more modestly so her client could focus on the proceedings.

Bormann would not discuss reports of threats against her.

For her, the issue is a simple one of respecting the religious and cultural beliefs of a client. She said that since she was appointed to bin Attash’s case last year, she has always dressed conservatively out of deference to a client who believes he will violate a religious tenet if he looks at a woman who is immodestly dressed.

“My client has never seen my hair, has never seen my arms, has never seen my legs,” Bormann said in an interview Monday. “All of the defense counsel, all of the guards and everybody who works in Guantanamo Bay camp has seen me dressed like this. … I never thought in my wildest dreams that this would become an issue.”

“There is nothing provocative about what I did. This is a religious issue and a cultural issue for [some of these defendants],” Bormann said in the interview. “I want him to be able to fully concentrate on the proceedings at hand without any kind of interference or loss of focus.”