U.S. Guantanamo Prisoners Stage Hunger Strike

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2002 22:59:07 -0000

February 28, 2002 5:11 pm EST 

By Jane Sutton 

MIAMI (Reuters) - Nearly 200 al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners at the U.S.
Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, refused to eat some meals on
Thursday after guards forced a captive to remove a turban during
prayers, military officials said. 

Prisoners at the camp are not allowed to wear turbans because they could
conceal weapons, said a spokesman for the U.S. military's Southern
Command in Miami, which oversees the prison camp operation. 
The camp holds 300 prisoners captured in the U.S.-led war in
Afghanistan. Their treatment has drawn criticism from some U.S. allies
and human rights groups. 
"This morning, 107 detainees refused to eat breakfast," said the
spokesman, Capt. Tom Crosson. The protest grew during the day, with
about 190 prisoners refusing to eat lunch, another SouthCom spokesman
said. 
Crosson said the prisoners were protesting an incident on Wednesday
night, when guards forced a prisoner to remove a turban he had
fashioned. 
"The guards down there asked him several times through translators to
remove the turban and from what I understand he didn't immediately but
eventually he did. This was in the middle of his prayer session,"
Crosson said. 
He said the prisoners were upset. 

"I don't know if it was because they asked him to remove it or because
they disrupted his prayer," said Crosson. 
There had been no reports of threats against U.S. troops guarding the
prisoners nor of injuries, Crosson said. 

Medical officers at the camp were monitoring the prisoners but had found
no cause to intervene, SouthCom said. 
Most of the prisoners at the camp, who come from two dozen nations, are
Muslim. A Muslim chaplain who leads the prisoners in prayer said
previously that turbans were not considered necessary for proper prayer
by Muslims, though many of the prisoners come from nations where turbans
are commonly worn. 
Prisoners at the camp are given close-fitting caps to wear if they
choose, Crosson said. 

The human rights group Amnesty International said the incident
underscored its concerns about U.S. treatment of the Guantanamo
prisoners but that it did not condone "acts of self-harm or violence
undertaken to protest conditions of detention." 

"We reiterate that the solution to this problem lies in recognizing that
the Geneva Conventions apply to all prisoners," Amnesty spokesman
Alistair Hodgett said from Washington. 

The conventions require that prisoners be allowed to exercise their
religious faith so long as they comply with the disciplinary routine
prescribed by military authorities.  

"It would certainly give us cause for concern on top of our existing
concerns when we hear some people were interrupted and restrained in the
practice of their required religious duties," Hodgett said. 
The United States said earlier this month it would apply the Geneva
Convention to captured fighters belonging to the Taliban militia that
ruled Afghanistan with a hard-line interpretation of Islam, but not to
prisoners belonging to the al Qaeda network that the United States
blames for the Sept. 11 attacks on America. 

U.S. officials have also said they are struggling to differentiate
between the two groups at the Guantanamo camp.

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