Clash Over Hunger Strike at Gitmo
Prisoners Fight With Guards
FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2007 file photo, Guantanamo guards keep watch over a cell block with detainees in Camp 6 maximum-security facility, at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. Guards clashed Saturday, April 13, 2013 with prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay prison as the military sought to move hunger strikers out of a communal section of the detention center, officials said. The confrontation occurred after the commander decided to move prisoners into single, solid-walled cells so that prison authorities could monitor them more closely during the hunger strike, the military said.. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
Miami — Guards clashed with prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay prison yesterday as the military moved hunger strikers from a communal section of the detention center into single cells on the U.S. base in Cuba, officials said.
The commander of the detention center ordered the transfer because prisoners participating in the hunger strike had covered up security cameras and blocked windows, making it difficult to monitor their health during a protest that has lasted more than two months, said Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a military spokesman.
Prisoners fought guards with makeshift weapons that included broomsticks when troops arrived to move them out of a communal wing of the section of the prison known as Camp 6, Durand said. Guards responded by firing four “less-than-lethal rounds,” he said.
There were no serious injuries from the rounds, which included a modified shotgun shell that fires small rubber pellets as well as a type of bean-bag projectile, said Army Col. Greg Julian, a spokesman for Miami-based U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the prison at the U.S. base in Cuba.
“I know for sure that one detainee was hit, but the injuries were minor, just some bruises,” Julian said.
The confrontation came a day after a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross finished a three-week visit to Guantanamo to meet with prisoners and assess conditions.
“The ICRC continues to follow the current tensions and the hunger strike at Guantanamo very closely and with concern,” spokesman Simon Schorno said. “If necessary, an ICRC team will in coming days return to Guantanamo to assess the situation of the detainees on hunger strike in view of this latest development.”
Camp 6 had previously been a section of the camp reserved for detainees who followed prison rules. In exchange they were allowed to share meals and pray together, have nearly round-the-clock recreation time as well as access to satellite TV, computer games and classes. It held a majority of the 166 prisoners at the base before the hunger strike began.
The guards moved the hunger strikers and all other detainees at the communal section to single cells in a separate wing of Camp 6 around 5 a.m. yesterday. Prisoners will eventually be allowed back into communal living conditions in the future if they follow rules, while hunger strikers will be held in single cells, Durand said.
“For now, housing detainees in individual cells will enable us to observe them more closely,” he said.
Tensions had been high at the prison for months. Lawyers for prisoners said a hunger strike began Feb. 6 in protest over their indefinite confinement and what the men believed were tighter restrictions and intrusive searches of their Qurans for contraband.