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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 22:43 GMT
Guantanamo hunger strike escalates
A
The US has not ruled out force-feeding the inmates
Two-thirds of the terror suspects being held at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay have now joined a hunger strike that began on Wednesday.

A US military spokesman said 194 inmates refused to eat lunch on Thursday and began chanting "God is great" in Arabic, as part of a protest which started when two guards removed an inmate's turban while he was praying.


There is an underlying tension associated with the uncertainty of their future

Major Stephen Cox
Prisoners have also been pushing sheets, blankets, sleeping mats and other items through the chain-link walls of their cells, Marine Major Stephen Cox said.

The protest is the first at the camp since inmates began arriving at the remote US naval base in Cuba in January.

Forcible feeding

Although the detainees have only just begun their hunger strike Captain Alan Crouch has emphasised that the US authorities "are not going to let them starve".


  • Buckets for toilets
  • Thin foam mattresses
  • Beards shaved

    Clickable guide: Inside Camp X-Ray

  • Medical personnel have been monitoring the detainees and are prepared to feed them intravenously if needed, Major Cox said.

    According to Major Cox tension has been building amongst the 300 prisoners for some time. Recently some have been ignoring the taped call to prayer broadcast across the camp choosing an inmate to lead the prayer instead.

    "There is an underlying tension associated with the uncertainty of their future: What is going to happen?" he said.

    Legal concerns

    Amnesty International said the protest "highlights the dangers of the legal limbo into which the prisoners have been thrown".

    "This latest development underscores the urgent need for the United States to acknowledge that all of the prisoners are covered by the Geneva Conventions," Amnesty spokesman Alistair Hodgett said.

    A prisoner is moved by two Camp X-Ray guards
    Inmates are offered caps to wear

    The detainees have said their protest is in response to an incident on Tuesday. A detainee had made a turban out of a sheet and was wearing it on his head during prayer time.

    "We don't allow fashioning of a headdress that would allow them to shroud any type of item or weapon," Major Cox said.

    Two military guards ordered the prisoner to remove the turban, but the inmate ignored the order.

    Stripped

    A translator was called and made the same order but the inmate still refused.

    The two guards shackled the man and then stripped him of his turban, Major Cox said.

    "The two guards followed the proper procedures," Major Cox said.

    The detainees have been provided with close-fitting caps to wear if they choose, but many have been using their white towels to cover their heads.

    The US military says the 300 prisoners being held at the detention camp are fighters of the al-Qaeda terrorist network and the deposed Afghan Taleban regime that harboured it.

    Officials have said that the prisoners could be a danger to themselves and to their guards.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Tom Carver
    "The number of detainees on hunger strike has doubled"
    US Programme at Human Rights Watch's Jamie Fellner
    "We should be focusing on why they are on hunger strike"
    American University's Professor Paul Williams
    "This is the beginning of a very dangerous situation"
    See also:

    27 Feb 02 | Americas
    Camp X-ray: The legal options
    12 Feb 02 | Americas
    UN speaks out on Afghan detainees
    Internet links:


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