130 Men Are Starving Themselves to Death Because Political Cowardice Keeps Them Locked Up
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The following is a transcript of a Democracy Now! segment on the hunger strike at Guantanamo.
The U.S. military has acknowledged for the first time the number of prisoners on hunger strike at the military prison has topped 100. About a fifth of the hunger strikers are now being force-fed. Lawyers for the prisoners say more than 130 men are taking part in the hunger strike, which began in February. One of the hunger strikers is a Yemeni man named Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel. In a letter published in The New York Times, he wrote: "Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made. I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late." We speak to attorney Carlos Warner, who represents 11 prisoners at Guantánamo. He spoke to one of them on Friday. "Unfortunately, they’re held because the president has no political will to end Guantánamo," Warner says. "The president has the authority to transfer individuals if he believes that it’s in the interests of the United States. But he doesn’t have the political will to do so because 166 men in Guantánamo don’t have much pull in the United States. But the average American on the street does not understand that half of these men, 86 of the men, are cleared for release."
One of the hunger strikers is a Yemeni man named Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel. In a letter published in The New York Timeshe wrote, quote, "The situation is desperate now. All of the detainees here are suffering deeply. ...
“And there is no end in sight to our imprisonment. Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made.
"I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late."
Those, the words of Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel. He has been held at Guantánamo for 11 years without charge.
A Muslim adviser who works for the Pentagon is predicting some prisoners will die before the hunger strike ends. The adviser, who goes by the name Zak, said, quote, "They are not done yet, and they will not be done until there is more than one death."
Some prisoners have reportedly lost dramatic amounts of weight, while authorities have attempted to break the strike with force-feeding and isolation. Many human rights and medical groups consider force-feeding a form of torture. The U.S. government says allowing them to starve would be inhumane.
To talk more about the situation at Guantánamo, we’re joined by Carlos Warner, an attorney with the Office of the Federal Defender in Northeastern Ohio. He represents 11 Guantánamo prisoners.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Carlos Warner. Tell us about the prisoners you represent who are on hunger strike right now.
CARLOS WARNER: Thank you, Amy, for having me. We represent, as you said, 11 men there, and we believe the vast majority, if not all of them, are hunger striking, with exception of the high-value detainee that we represent. We also believe that the majority of them are also being force-fed. The military says—I believe that you said 24 is the latest number, but we believe the military rotates people on and off that force-feeding list. But I think debating about the numbers at this point is irrelevant. We know that this is the largest event that Guantánamo has ever experienced in terms of scope and duration. We’re in crisis, and President Obama is doing nothing.