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Court orders Guantanamo commander to explain force-feeding

The 'feeding chair,' used to force feed detainees on hunger strike at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on April 9, 2014
The "feeding chair," used to force feed detainees on hunger strike at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on April 9, 2014

A US judge ordered a former Guantanamo Bay commander Wednesday to come forward with details about the force-feeding of hunger strikers at the controversial detention camp.

US District Judge Gladys Kessler asked Colonel John Bogdan to explain a standing order issued in May that calls for the use of restraint chairs during the force-feeding of inmates.

Kessler also asked Bogdan to tell lawyers for plaintiff Abu Wa'el (Jihad) Dhiab, a Syrian national held since 2002, why he had been denied a wheelchair when taken to his force-feeding sessions.

And she instructed the US military to cooperate with an independent medical examination of Dhiab, ahead of a motion hearing in September.

Kessler's order came a year after she rejected a petition from Dhiab to halt his force-feeding, saying US law didn't allow the court to do so.

At that time, she urged President Barack Obama to review the issue to see if the controversial practice should end.

Bogdan led Guantanamo's joint detention group until June this year.

Dhiab's lawyer Eric Lewis welcomed Kessler's latest order, telling AFP: "We are interested in transparency. We are interested in making sure that our client doesn't suffer unnecessarily."

He added that his client -- involved in an ongoing federal court case that seeks to end tube feeding, which some medical professionals deem unethical -- is currently "in bad shape" and confined to a wheelchair.

Kessler also requested more details from Guantanamo's past and present senior medical officers about the force-feeding process, including the risks of doing so through the nose for three days at a time.

There are 149 inmates still at the extraordinary prison at the eastern tip of Cuba set up under former president George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The detainees brought to the US naval base were purportedly terror suspects labeled as "enemy combatants."

But most have never been charged in court, and the US government is trying to speed up the transfer of the remaining inmates to their home nations or third countries.

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