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Accusations Ahead of Gitmo Force-Feeding Hearing


     (CN) – An Army sergeant threatened to force-feed a Guantanamo hunger striker roughly three hours after a federal judge forbade it, the detainee’s lawyers said in a declaration filed Tuesday, hours before a federal court hearing.     
     “It certainly does look as if an MP who ought to have known better did not take the judge’s order as seriously as he should have, and I expect there will be some discussion on the topic at the hearing today,” the detainee’s lawyer Cori Crider said in an email Wednesday.
     Syrian-born Mohammed Abu Wa’el Dhiab aka Jihad Dhiab has been detained at the U.S. military prison in Cuba for 12 years, and his continued detention is indefinite even though he was cleared for release in 2009.
     At one point Dhiab was among the more than 100 detainees refusing food in protest of their confinement, but the Pentagon has stopped disclosing statistics of the hunger strikers’ ranks in December. Officials have justified force-feeding these prisoners through nasogastric tubes as necessary for their survival, and federal courts typically have upheld that policy.
     U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler bucked that trend on Friday by prohibiting prison guards from performing a “forcible cell extraction,” or FCE, on Dhiab, or force-feeding him until the parties met again in court on Wednesday.
     Her three-page order also mandated that the government “preserve and maintain all videotapes” of Dhiab’s enteral feedings and cell extractions between April 9, 2013, and Feb. 19, 2014.
     Dhiab’s lawyers filed a 12-page declaration Tuesday stating that their client was “harassed and intimidated about a possible FCE” at least three hours after that ruling.
     Cori Crider, from the U.K.-based charity Reprieve, said she spoke to Dhiab over the phone conversation on Monday about the alleged incident.
     During the conversation, Dhiab claimed that an Army sergeant approached him sometime after Friday prayers, which fell that day roughly three hours after Kessler’s ruling.
     “Why are you refusing to eat?” Dhiab recalled Army sergeant asking, according to the declaration. “Do you wanna eat by the FCE?”
     This sergeant asserted that he was “in charge” of the cell-extraction team, the declaration states.
     According to the declaration, Dhiab said: “I especially remember they badly hurt my rib in the past – once in 2009, and another time this year. I have had great pain in both the left and right sides of my chest because of this. It also seems like every time they [Emergency Reaction Force] me and give me a blood test they find blood in my urine. I have severe pain in my lower back/thigh and also in my neck, I believe all from the ERF.”
     Referring to the cell extractions, Dhiab added: “I have sometimes wished to die because of them.”
     Dhiab also claimed that the footage of his force-feedings were “incomplete and manipulated.”
     The declaration states: “‘They video you when they force you onto the chair and when they pull you off the chair,’ he said, ‘but they do not always do it during feedings.'”
     Though the government has insisted that it gives detainees “timely, compassionate, quality healthcare,” Kessler found in an order last year that it was “perfectly clear from the statements of detainees, as well as the statements from … [various organizations], that force-feeding is a painful, humiliating, and degrading process.”
     At the time, Kessler quoted President Barack Obama’s speech from May 23, 2013, restating his desire to close the military prison in Guantanamo.
     “Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike,” Obama said at the time. “Is that who we are? Is that something that our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children? Our sense of justice is stronger than that.”
     Crider said that her client finished off their conversation by asking Obama to live up to his promise.
     “Five years ago, Obama said he was going to close this place and let the cleared people out,” Dhiab said, according to the declaration. “Meanwhile I have lost much of my life here, as well as my loved ones. Why are they doing this to us? I have no problem with America. For how long are they going to make me suffer?”
     The Pentagon declined to comment on pending litigation, and a lawyer from Reprieve did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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