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Guantanamo lawyers file lawsuit over ‘grotesque’ forced-feeding of hunger strikers

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By Jane Sutton

MIAMI (Reuters) – Lawyers for four Guantanamo prisoners are asking a U.S. federal judge to block the force-feeding of hunger strikers at the detention camp, arguing that it violates human rights and serves no military purpose.

The lawsuit was filed on Sunday night in Washington and U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer gave the government until noon (1600 GMT) on Wednesday to reply.

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The U.S. military holds 166 foreign captives at the detention camp on the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, and a spokesman said 106 had joined a months-long hunger strike to protest the failure to resolve their fate after more than a decade of detention.

Forty-four were being fed at least some of the time through tubes inserted into their nostrils and down into their stomachs, often while strapped down in restraint chairs.

Prisoners have described the process as painful and degrading. Their lawyers say it is “grotesque” and constitutes torture and inhumane treatment, which are banned by international law.

The lawyers asked for an expedited ruling partly because of concerns the prison staff would force-feed the Muslim detainees during Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims fast during daylight hours. It begins on July 8.

U.S. federal judges have previously ruled they had no jurisdiction over the conditions of confinement for Guantanamo prisoners.

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A Pentagon spokesman said on Monday he could not discuss pending litigation but that “the department consistently extends every reasonable religious accommodation that falls within the limits of necessary security considerations.”

A spokesman for the detention camp told Reuters two weeks ago that the military planned to follow the practice used during previous Ramadans and conduct the tube-feedings at night so the hunger strikers could fast during the daytime.

The suit was filed on behalf of Algerian captives Ahmed Belbacha and Nabil Hadjarab, Syrian prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab and Shaker Aamer, a Saudi prisoner with British residency.

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All four are hunger strikers, but Aamer and Dhiab voluntarily drink enough of a liquid nutrition drink to avoid the tube-feeding, their lawyers said.

The four were rounded up during counterterrorism operations but are among the 86 prisoners cleared for release or transfer years ago. President Barack Obama has said repeatedly he wants to shut the Guantanamo detention camp, but has been unable to work out a plan to do it.

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“Their detention and their force-feeding has nothing to do with military necessity,” their lawyers said in court documents. “Their detention is solely a function of a political stalemate between the president and the Congress.”

Defense attorney Cori Crider quoted Hadjarab as saying: “I do not want to die, but I am prepared to. … I am doing this because I want to know my destiny, I cannot abide not knowing anymore.”

(Reporting by Jane Sutton; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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[Guantanamo protesters via Shutterstock]


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Trump has committed 6 impeachable offenses: Harvard Law’s Laurence Tribe says ‘the evidence is all there’

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Constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe broke down the six impeachable offenses President Donald Trump has committed during a Thursday appearance on MSNBC's "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell.

Tribe has argued 36 cases before the United States Supreme Court and taught at Harvard Law for 50 years. He co-authored the 2018 book To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment with Joshua Matz.

"Everyone was in the loop, it was no secret. That was the testimony from Ambassador Gordon Sondland yesterday as he implicated the president, Secretary of State, White House chief of staff, and former National Security Advisor John Bolton and other administration officials in the plot to bribe the president of Ukraine to publicly launch an investigation into Joe Biden in exchange for U.S. military aid to Ukraine that was authorized by Congress and that the president was withholding," O'Donnell reported.

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Rachel Maddow breaks down how public opinion is catching up with the facts of Trump’s impeachment

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MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on Thursday broke down how the details from the televised impeachment hearings are being reported in local newspapers.

The host read the headlines from multiple newspapers following the damning testimony by Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

The Los Angels Times headlined, "Sonland implicates president." "Envoy says Trump directed effort," was The Wall Street Journal headline.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch headlined, "'Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret': Defiant Sondland says he followed Trump's orders."

"Trump directed pressure on Ukraine, ambassador says," headlined The Kansas City Star.

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Shep Smith blasts autocrats in first public remarks since leaving Fox News — and donates $500,000 to protect journalists

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On Thursday, for the first time since exiting Fox News, reporter Shepard Smith gave public comments at the International Press Freedom Awards — and used the occasion to blast autocratic leaders who use their power to suppress journalism.

"Intimidation and vilification of the press is now a global phenomenon. We don’t have to look far for evidence of that,” said Smith. "Our belief a decade ago that the online revolution would liberate us now seems a bit premature, doesn’t it? Autocrats have learned how to use those same online tools to shore up their power. They flood the world of information with garbage and lies, masquerading as news. There’s a phrase for that."

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