45 at Gitmo on hunger strike despite Obama order
Dozens of Guantanamo Bay prisoners were still on hunger strike despite President Barack Obama's order to close the prison.world Updated: Jan 24, 2009 10:09 IST
Dozens of Guantanamo Bay prisoners were still on hunger strike despite President Barack Obama's order to close the prison.
The 45 men refusing to eat were in no immediate medical danger, according to detention centre spokeswoman, Navy Cmdr. Pauline Storum, who said visiting attorneys informed the prisoners of Obama's order to close the prison within a year.
Storum said a recent surge in the number of prisoners refusing to eat is linked to Obama's inauguration and the seventh anniversary of the prison at a US base in Cuba. She said she expects the protest to dwindle as it has in the past.
"It's only been two days since the inauguration," she said in a phone interview from the base. "Call me next week and we'll see what the numbers are."
Hunger strikes have long been a feature of Guantanamo, but there are now more men refusing meals than at any time since spring 2006. The US holds about 245 men at the prison.
Ramzi Kassem, a lawyer for a prisoner who has been on continuous hunger strike since the summer of 2005, said his client is "as resolute as ever" to maintain the protest until he returns to his native Saudi Arabia.
"All these men remain there without process or justice," said Kassem, a Yale Law School lecturer. "Going on hunger strike ... Is the only way they have to voice their protest."
The military restrains hunger strikers in a special chair and feeds them liquid nutrients through a nasal tube to prevent any from starving. Lawyers and human rights groups say the force-feeding is unnecessarily brutal, an allegation prison officials deny.