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Hunger strike by Guantánamo detainees growing, says military

world Updated: Apr 23, 2013 00:44 IST
hunger strike

The number of detainees at the wartime prison here deemed to be on a hunger strike by the military spiked again on 19th April, to 63. Defense lawyers contend that an overwhelming majority of the 166 prisoners have been participating in the protest.

Still, the official count of 63 was an increase from 52 on Wednesday. On April 12, the eve of a briefly violent predawn raid by guards who forced prisoners living in communal cellblocks into lockdown in individual cells, there were 43 participating.

Military told media the detainees, who previously had complied with rules, had been increasingly unruly amid the hunger strike. They had covered surveillance cameras and refused to go into their cells for daily lockdowns that enabled guards to enter the recreation yards and common space.

A Muslim cultural adviser to the military, identified only as "Zak" for security reasons, told reporters the military had given the prisoners time to start complying with the rules again, but the prisoners refused.

The timing of the raid, he said, was chosen because officials feared it was possible that a detainee would die.

"That is why we broke up the communal and put them in single-cell operations," he said. "They wanted to die out of hunger and thirst behind covered cameras."

One reason the military's official numbers started lower and are growing, Zak said, is that some detainees "did not come and present themselves" to be weighed, and it was hard for the medical specialist to tell who was losing weight.

Lawyers for the detainees say their clients attributed the protest to a searching of Korans for contraband on February 6. Military officials contend that there was nothing different about that search from previous ones.