TEHRAN, YJC. While the lawyers of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners stated Monday that a widespread hunger strike was under way due to deteriorating conditions, a prison spokesman denied such reports.
Lawyers for Guantanamo Bay prisoners stated Monday that a widespread hunger strike was under way due to deteriorating conditions, but a prison spokesman denied any mass protest at the U.S. base in Cuba.
In a letter to the prison commander, Rear Adm. John Smith, the attorneys of more than a dozen prisoners said and disclosed to the media that "all but a few men” have been on hunger strike for three weeks. They said the situation "appears to be rapidly deteriorating and reaching a potentially critical level,” according to the Washington Post report.
The lawyers conveyed that the protest was provoked by a series of searches beginning on Feb. 6 in which a number of personal items, including religious CDs, blankets and legal mail, were confiscated. The searches included the overly intrusive searches of their Qurans by Arabic translators.
"As their health has deteriorated, we have received reports of men coughing up blood, being hospitalized, losing consciousness, becoming weak and fatigued, and being moved to Camp V for observation,” the lawyers wrote, referring to a camp that is partly utilized in hold men who violate prison rules.
A prison spokesman, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, said the Department of Justice would respond to the attorney’s letter, but said that the hunger strikers were an exception.
The prisoners have outlined a few simple conditions to be considered by the authorities in order for the strike to end instantly: the right to willingly surrender the Qurans so as to avoid the book’s forceful desecration, and to provide the Quran on an electronic reader so that no notes can be passed and no further religious violations need take place.
The U.S. holds about 166 men at the prison. A mass hunger strike involved many of the prisoners in the summer of 2005 but the protest dwindled after the military began strapping them down and force-feeding them a liquid nutrient mix to prevent them from starving to death.
Nine prisoners have died in custody at the Guantanamo detention camp to date. Two of the deaths were from natural causes and six were designated as suicides, according to the U.S Army reports.