Hunger Strikes Continue at Guantánamo

February 13th, 2009 - by admin

Robert Mackey / New York Times – 2009-02-13 00:25:04

February 11, 2009) — A United States military lawyer representing one of the 242 detainees still imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay told a British newspaper on Sunday that, including her client, “at least 50 people are on hunger strike, with 20 on the critical list” at the detention center.

The lawyer, Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley of the Air Force, told The Observer, The Guardian’s Sunday newspaper, that her client, an Ethiopian-born Briton named Binyam Mohamed, is in danger of dying. The Observer adds, according to witnesses, the starving detainees “are being strapped to chairs and force-fed, with those who resist being beaten.”
Mr. Mohamed is on a hunger strike to protest the fact that he is still being held at Guantánamo Bay nearly four months after the charges against him were dropped.

As John Schwartz reports in The New York Times today, lawyers for Mr. Mohamed were outraged that the Obama administration sought on Monday to block a lawsuit they had filed on Mr. Mohamed’s behalf:

In the case, Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian native, and four other detainees filed suit against a subsidiary of Boeing for arranging flights for the Bush administration’s “extraordinary rendition” program, in which terrorism suspects were secretly taken to other countries, where they say they were tortured. […]
The court papers describe horrific treatment in secret prisons. Mr. Mohamed claimed that during his detention in Morocco, “he was routinely beaten, suffering broken bones and, on occasion, loss of consciousness. His clothes were cut off with a scalpel and the same scalpel was then used to make incisions on his body, including his penis. A hot stinging liquid was then poured into open wounds on his penis where he had been cut. He was frequently threatened with rape, electrocution and death.”

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit, continue to call for federal judges to permit “the victims of torture and rendition their day in court.” But Mr. Mohamed’s military lawyer, Lieutenant Colonel Bradley, is more concerned with her client’s physical and mental health. On Monday, she told Richard Norton-Taylor of The Guardian, “If this keeps getting dragged out, he will leave Guantánamo Bay insane or in a coffin.”

Since Mr. Mohamed was a British subject when he was arrested in Pakistan and the British government agreed to repatriate him after the war-crimes charges against him were dropped at Guantánamo Bay last October, Lieutenant Colonel Bradley traveled to Britain this week to meet with government officials and urge them to press for his release.

On Monday night, Lieutenant Colonel Bradley was interviewed by Jon Snow on Channel 4 News in London, after this report on Mr. Mohamed’s case was broadcast (it aired before the hearing on his lawsuit in San Francisco):

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In her interview with Mr. Snow (embedded below), Lieutenant Colonel Bradley stressed that “the problem is, Mr. Mohamed, despite the politics, despite the rhetoric and talk, still sits in Gitmo, in Guantánamo Bay, today, where there are no charges, and he’s wasting away.”

The Times Topics page on Mr. Mohamed explains that there are no pending charges against him at Guantánamo:
After Mr. Mohamed was captured, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft said that he had been complicit with Jose Padilla to detonate a “dirty bomb” in the United States. Last year, the Justice Department said it was dropping the dirty-bomb charges against Mr. Mohamed, and last October all charges against him were dropped.

According to The Observer, when Lieutenant Colonel Bradley meets with officials at the British foreign office this week, she “will also request the disclosure of 42 secret documents that allegedly chronicle not only how Binyam Mohamed was tortured, but may also corroborate claims that Britain was complicit in his treatment.”

The stated objection of the American government to the lawsuit brought by Mr. Mohamed and the other detainees in federal court is that making this secret evidence public could compromise American intelligence relationships with other governments.

On Sunday, The Guardian published excerpts from a diary Mr. Mohamed says he kept during stints in Morocco and Afghanistan, before being transferred to Guantánamo Bay. In this entry, from 2002, Mr. Mohamed wrote that he told his interrogators in Morocco what he thought they wanted to hear:

They’d ask me a question. I’d say one thing. They’d say it was a lie. I’d say another. They’d say it was a lie. I could not work out what they wanted to hear.

They’d say there’s this guy who says you’re the big man in Al Qaeda. I’d say it’s a lie. They’d torture me. I’d say, okay it’s true. That night the same people came back. The same guy punched me till I couldn’t stand.
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