June 1, 2006

Fifth of Guantanamo inmates on hunger strike

By Jane Sutton

MIAMI (Reuters) - The number of prisoners on hunger strike
at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay navy base grew by more
than a dozen to 89 on Thursday, a spokesman for the
controversial detention center said.

Six of those were being force-fed through tubes pushed into
their stomachs via their noses, including three who had refused
food since August, said Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand.

The U.S. military considers detainees to be on a hunger
strike when they have skipped nine consecutive meals, and the
number meeting that definition grew to 89 on Thursday from 75
on Monday, Durand said.

The U.S. naval base in southeast Cuba holds about 460
foreign men suspected by the United States of being al Qaeda
and Taliban conspirators. Hunger strikes have waxed and waned
since shortly after the first prisoners arrived in 2002.

Detention camp officials have called the hunger strikes an
attempt by the prisoners to gain media attention, to protest
their indefinite detention and to put pressure on the United
States to release them.

Their lawyers say it is a sign of despair.

Only 10 of the prisoners held at Guantanamo as enemy
combatants have been charged with crimes, and the U.S. Supreme
Court is expected to rule by the end of June whether those war
crimes trials are constitutional.

Military officials said 287 Guantanamo prisoners have been
freed or transferred to other governments, and negotiations are
going on to return more than 100 others to their homelands for
continued detention.