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Inmate: Prison search inspired hunger strike at Guantanamo

  |   May 4, 2013 at 8:51 PM
WASHINGTON, May 4 (UPI) -- A Guantanamo detainee says he was driven to join a growing hunger strike by conditions at the U.S. military prison in Cuba the inmates deem intolerable.

Obaidullah, an Afghan who has only one name, submitted an affidavit to a federal court that was declassified Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported. He suggested that for many detainees what convinced them to begin refusing food was a Feb. 6 search U.S. officials contend was routine, conducted properly and justified.

In his affidavit, Obaidullah said soldiers took family photographs and other possessions and were seen "rifling through the pages of many Korans and handling them roughly."

Obaidullah's account is the most detailed account by a prisoner to come out of Guantanamo since the hunger strike began, the Times said. The military has released only general information, although some defense lawyers have said they were notified their clients were being force-fed.

Obaidullah gave an account of the condition of some of his fellow inmates.

"I have seen men who are on the verge of death being taken away to be force-fed," he said. "I have also seen some men coughing up blood, being hospitalized, losing consciousness, becoming weak and fatigued."

Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a Guantanamo spokesman, denied any Korans were handled improperly during the Feb. 6 search. Col. John Bogdan, who is in charge of the prison, said recently that weapons fashioned from mop handles were discovered along with other contraband.

"Detainees will often cite any change, real or perceived, as a cause for protest," Durand said.

Only 166 inmates remain at Guantanamo, some of them in limbo because U.S. authorities are leery of returning detainees to Yemen, where an al-Qaida affiliate is active. U.S. authorities say 100 have joined the hunger strike, while defense lawyers say the actual number might be 130.

Obaidullah was taken prisoner in 2002 in Khowst, Afghanistan, by soldiers who said he had a notebook that showed the location of roadside bombs. He said he has avoided previous protests and hunger strikes.

"I have been moved to take action," he said in his affidavit. "Eleven years of my life have been taken from me, and now by the latest actions of the authorities, they have also taken my dignity and disrespected my religion."

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