Gitmo Guards Open Fire on Hunger Strikers

Ian Becker

Democracy Now reports that this weekend marked increasingly aggressive efforts on the part of Guantanamo Bay guards to suppress the nearly two-month-long prisoner hunger strike: The Pentagon says guards fired "non-lethal" rounds at prisoners on Saturday after trying to move them into isolated, one-man cells. At least one prisoner was hit with a rubber-coated bullet. The military claims it took action after prisoners covered windows and surveillance cameras. It also says prisoners used "improvised weapons" to resist the guards’ sweep. Defense attorneys say most of the prison’s 166 detainees are now taking part in the hunger strike two months after it began. At least 11 prisoners are being force-fed through nasal tubes. The latest unrest came one day after the International Committee of the Red Cross wrapped up a three-week visit to assess the prisoners’ treatment. While the Pentagon claimed the prisoners had "improvised weapons," Cindy Panuco, a defense lawyer for the Afghan detainee Obaidullah, tells RT that makeshift weapons would be almost impossible to come by at Guantanamo. Panuco says the prisoners have access to only the small ballpoint inserts of a pen: That’s pretty much all they’re allowed, so I don’t see, especially given the evasive searches that were conducted in February, what kind of makeshift weapons the government is referring to. That’s still to be determined, especially since there’s no way they could have any sort of weapons. On Sunday, the New York Times published an op-ed by one of the strikers, Samir Maji al Hasan Moqbel, a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay who has been held for 11 years without charge. Dictated through an Arabic interpreter to Moqbel's lawyers at the legal aid group Reprieve, the piece gives a firsthand account of the strikes, including the practice of "force-feeding": I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.   I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11 p.m., when I’m sleeping.   There are so many of us on hunger strike now that there aren’t enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the force-feedings; nothing is happening at regular intervals. They are feeding people around the clock just to keep up.   During one force-feeding the nurse pushed the tube about 18 inches into my stomach, hurting me more than usual, because she was doing things so hastily. I called the interpreter to ask the doctor if the procedure was being done correctly or not.   It was so painful that I begged them to stop feeding me.

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