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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Guantanamo man 'wants to starve'
Demonstrators in London protest against the practice of force-feeding hunger strikers at the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Campaigners demonstrating force-feeding, which they say is unethical
A Kuwaiti detainee on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay wants a judge to order the removal of his feeding tube so he can be allowed to die, his lawyer says.

Fawzi al-Odah is ready to die "out of desperation" at his detention without charge, said his lawyer Tom Wilner.

Mr al-Odah is one of about 26 detainees being fed by tube, against their will.

Force-feeding is highly controversial. Campaigners in London on Tuesday said it was unethical and painful, but US authorities say they are saving lives.

Mr al-Odah, a 28-year-old who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002, has asked his lawyers to file papers seeking a judicial order that his tube be removed, Mr Wilner told AP news agency.

"He is willing to take a stand if it will bring justice," Mr Wilner said.

However, Mr Wilner said the papers had not yet been filed due to the opposition of his client's family, who were "frantic" about the situation.

Despite being force-fed, Mr al-Odah "looks like a skeleton", Mr Wilner said.

Hunger strike

The move comes as a controversy rumbles on over how hunger strikers at the detention facility in Cuba are treated.

Lawyers citing declassified statements from detainees say more than 200 of the total of about 505 inmates took part in a month-long hunger strike in July this year, resulting in some concessions for inmates.

But the hunger strike is said to have restarted in August, because the concessions - which included adhering to the Geneva Conventions - were withdrawn, the lawyers said.

US authorities at the facility say 26 inmates remain on hunger strike, and all are being involuntarily tube-fed - whereby a tube is inserted into the nose, pushed down the throat and into the stomach.

'Humane' treatment

"As a matter of policy our mission is to... [prevent] unnecessary loss of life of the detainees through standard medical intervention, including involuntary medical nutrition," Lieutenant Colonel Jeremy Martin, military spokesman at Guantanamo Bay, told the BBC News website.

He said hunger strikers were "clinically stable" and were receiving compassionate care. Only doctors and qualified nurses administered the tube-feeding, he said.

"The dangerous men we are holding are held in an environment that is stable, secure and humane," he said.

US says 26 detainees on hunger strike; Reprieve says about 150
US says hunger strikers are "clinically stable"; Reprieve says some are in "grave peril"
US denies Reprieve's claims force-feeding is being used deliberately to harm detainees
US says only doctors and qualified nurses carry out the procedure; Reprieve says guards do too
US says detainees are being treated in accordance with Geneva Conventions; Reprieve says there are beatings and incidents of the Koran being disrespected

Rights groups and doctors have expressed concern over the health of hunger strikers, and have also highlighted ethical concerns over the practice of force-feeding.

"Fundamental to doctors' responsibilities in attending a hunger striker is the recognition that prisoners have the same right as any other patient to refuse medical treatment," said 18 doctors in a letter to the UK's Guardian newspaper on Tuesday.

On Tuesday night, one of the signatory doctors, Dr David Nicholl, graphically demonstrated how force-feeding is carried out in a protest outside the US embassy in London, organised with pressure group Reprieve.

'Bile and blood'

Reprieve says it estimates 150 detainees have been participating, at least in cycles, in the current hunger strike.

A spokesman for the group, Zachary Katznelson, alleged that force-feeding "is being used as a method of torture, given the manner in which it is being carried out".

"Our clients have testified to tubes as wide as a finger being used. There are reports that they are pouring in way too much food, causing vomiting, and are roughly pulling the tubes back and forth, in and out of the nose. They also remove the tube from one patient - covered in bile and blood - and shove it into somebody else, without cleaning it," he told the BBC News website.

He said prisoner testimonies accused guards, not doctors, of carrying out the procedure.

Despite the force-feeding, he said, many hunger strikers were in "grave peril".

Lt Col Martin said allegations that personnel at Guantanamo were deliberately harming detainees were "absolutely false".

"Our policy is to treat detainees humanely, and that policy is consistent with the Geneva Conventions," he said.

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