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Prisoners suspend hunger strike at Guantanamo

Majority of inmates taking part in hunger strike have ended their fast according to US military.

Last Modified: 13 Jul 2013 05:16
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Guards have been force-feeding the hunger strikers with a liquid nutrient mix [GALLO/GETTY]

Most prisoners on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay have resumed eating, the US military has said.

The inmates of the army-controlled detention centre ended, or at least paused, the hunger strike on Friday as 99 of the 102 prisoners have now eaten at least one meal in the past 24 hours.

They are still considered hunger strikers because the military requires several days of sustained eating and a minimal caloric intake before a prisoner is removed from the list.

It was not clear whether prisoners intended to abandon completely the protest that has roiled Guantanamo for more than four months and prompted President Barack Obama to renew his efforts to close a prison that holds 166 men.

Navy Captain Robert Durand said it had been unusually peaceful in the camps, largely free of conflict between guards and prisoners since the start of Ramadan.

"We are just pleased that they are for the most part eating and for the most part we are having good order and discipline in the camps," Durand said.

Prison officials issued a "pardon" that erased the men's accumulated disciplinary infractions and permitted many of them to pray together this week after having spent recent weeks largely isolated from each other.

Durand declined to speculate about whether the hunger strike might flare again after Ramadan.

"I don't pretend to understand the psychology of the detainees and they don't always necessarily declare their motives."

'Degrading process'

Another possible factor is that prison officials recently allowed dozens of the men to return to communal living under certain new restrictions, including that they refrain from hunger striking.

The military said 45 of the prisoners were still on the "enteral feed list," meaning they can be strapped down and fed a liquid nutrient mix through a nasogastric tube.

A US federal judge on Monday called it a "painful, humiliating and degrading process," in a ruling in which she said she had no authority to order it stopped.

The military earlier said it would carry out the feedings only at night during Ramadan out of respect for the prisoners' religious beliefs.

Lawyers for prisoners have accused the military all along of undercounting the hunger strike numbers and they remained sceptical of the latest reports.

"All I hear from my clients is that they are going to keep going and they are not going to stop," said David Remes, a Washington-based attorney who represents five prisoners who were being force-fed.

"Getting the president's attention isn't enough. Getting him to start sending detainees home is what he has to do."

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