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Federal judge orders U.S. to disclose records of Guantanamo prisoner’s force-feeding

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A U.S. federal judge ordered the government Wednesday to provide the medical records and 34 videos of a Syrian hunger-striking prisoner who was force–fed at Guantanamo.

Abu Wa’el Dhiab, 42, was cleared for release by the Obama administration in 2009 but has remained at the U.S. naval base in Cuba for more than a decade without charge or trial.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered President Barack Obama’s administration last week to temporarily stop force-feeding Dhiab, also asked that it turn over his medical records from last year.

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Dhiab has “resumed hunger striking because of the delay in releasing him,” his lawyer said in a filing Monday.

Dhiab has been “harassed and intimidated” by Guantanamo staff that he would face a so-called forcible cell extraction if he did not stop refusing food, according to the filing that described the “bodily pain” inflicted upon the prisoner by the FCE team.

“Dhiab remembers having his ribs hurt by the FCE team and having severe pain in his lower back/thigh, neck and head as a result of the forcible cell extractions,” it added.

Dhiab also reported a “‘vicious’ policy of permitting the detainees’ weight to fluctuate: over-feeding prisoners to the point of discomfort, suddenly ceasing the feeding, then resuming feedings if a prisoner loses consciousness on the block,” the lawyers said.

Lawyers from London-based human rights group Reprieve representing Dhiab describe a forcible cell extraction as the process by which detainees are “often violently” forcibly restrained and taken to the force-feeding chair.

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Of the 136 videotapes of the forced feeding and so-called forcible cell extractions of Dhiab between April 9, 2013, and February 19, 2014, Kessler ordered the government to hand 34 over to the defense team.

They account for 18 hours of recordings. During the forced feeding session, Dhiab is attached to a chair with straps restraining his head, ankles and wrists, and a tube is forcibly pushed through the nose to the stomach to feed him.

“It’s 12 years late but it’s fantastic, it’s the first time a federal court has started paying attention to the conditions of confinement in Guantanamo, that’s a huge step,” cheered Reprieve’s founder and director Clive Stafford Smith.

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More than 12 years after the arrival of the first batch of prisoners to Guantanamo in January 2002, the US naval detention center in Cuba still holds 154 men.

A total of 779 terror suspects have passed through the site.

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Last year, several dozen detainees led a six-month hunger strike during which they were fed by force.

Guantanamo authorities have since declined to provide a daily tally of the hunger strikers but lawyers say some still refuse food.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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