GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (CN) – Lawyers for a hunger-striking detainee must abide by restrictions barring the “distribution of, or discussion of” videos of their client’s forcible cell extractions taking him to his force-feedings, a federal judge ruled.
Syrian-born detainee Mohammed Abu Wa’el Dhiab, also known as 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.
Dhiab has been one of the most visible of Guantanamo’s hunger-strikers for his brief success challenging his prison’s force-feeding protocols in federal court.
In May, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler made an unprecedented decision that briefly banned guards from taking Dhiab to feedings via FCE, short for forcible cell extraction.
Although she declined to extend that ban after it expired weeks later, Kessler lamented what she called “anguishing Hobson’s Choice” of extending Dhiab’s pain or letting him starve to death, and she put the government’s policies under scrutiny by forcing the disclosure of 28 force-feeding videos.
She ordered the production of another four in June.
In an order declassified on Thursday, she granted a classified government request that “would prohibit the distribution of, or discussion of, the Forcible Cell Extraction (‘FCE’) videotapes related to this case with any other counsel than the attorneys of record in this case and the security-cleared attorneys in three related cases.”
Dhiab’s lawyers do not have standing to argue for the attorneys in related habeas cases, the order states.
The Associated Press, National Public Radio, The New York Times, the Washington Post and other media outlets all have tried to intervene in the case to get the videos unsealed.
While the most recent order does not impact that request, Kessler noted that she “anticipates that consideration of that motion will, almost inevitably, raise some of the substantive arguments” addressed in it.
Days earlier, Kessler had ordered for Guantanamo’s warden, Col. John Bogdan, to answer a list of pointed questions about the FCE and the practice of what the prison calls “enteral feeding,” with a bottle of Ensure via nasogastric tubes.
The order asks Bogdan why he would not let Dhiab go to his feeding by wheelchair, whether he considered alternatives to a restraint chair, the reason behind conducting force-feedings every time a detainee drops below 85 percent of his ideal body weight, and other queries.
She also wanted to know whether risk of infection increases from “keeping a nasogastric feeding tube in place for days or weeks at a time or from multiple daily insertions,” the “largest quantity and quickest speed of enteral feeding that a patient can tolerate comfortably,” and if the process is “unnecessarily painful or could be made less painful.”
Bogdan has until Sept. 5 to answer the questions, and Dhiab’s lawyers must submit expert medical reports about preferred practices ten days later.
Guantanamo’s director of public affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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