Gitmo hunger strike downplayed by U.S.

March 17, 2013 at 2:19 PM
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GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, March 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. military said claims that inmates at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were holding a mass hunger strike were overblown.

Attorneys representing some of the inmates as well as human rights groups sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel warning the strike was a threat to the prisoners' health, but a spokesman for the controversial prison told The Washington Post the claims were "simply untrue."

Officials told the Post there were only about 14 prisoners involved in the protest. Six were being force fed but the others were refusing meals but subsisting on personal caches of snacks stashed in their cells.

The Post said Sunday the hunger strike was taking place at Camp 6, a unit where security is relatively low and the 166 inmates are considered "compliant" with the rules and regulation. The newspaper said cell doors at Camp 6 were usually unlocked to the prisoners could mingle freely.

Tensions at Camp 6 have been on the rise in recent weeks, however, after guards reportedly began thumbing through the inmates' Korans in search of contraband, which the prisoners considered an act of desecration.

Attorneys for the prisoners said the protest also stemmed from the Obama administration's slow-down in sending inmates home. "Part of this is the general, absolute loss of hope, people having forgotten about Guantanamo and the administration having no plan for closure," said Pardiss Kebriaei, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

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