Journalists find Guantanamo quiet, tense

2013-04-20T00:00:00Z Journalists find Guantanamo quiet, tenseThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - The morning routine started before dawn with a prisoner chanting the Muslim call to prayer through a small opening in the heavy steel door of his cell as soldiers with face shields quietly paced in the dimly lit corridor. The calm did not last long.

Within minutes, troops began rushing about, the words "code yellow" echoing through their hand-held radios. The emergency was a prisoner in another cellblock who did not appear to be moving, prompting the urgent call to the medics to come check him, something they have been called upon to do many times in recent weeks, said the Army captain in charge of the maximum-security section of the Guantanamo Bay prison known as Camp 5.

Officials later said the man who sparked the alarm Thursday was OK, merely faint and dizzy, and he did not have to be hospitalized as others have amid a weeks-old hunger strike at the prison. Still, it was an illustration of just how tense Guantanamo has become of late, with more than a third of prisoners refusing to eat and nearly everyone locked down for most of the day since a violent clash with guards on April 13.

At least two detainees have tried to kill themselves since that confrontation between guards in riot gear and prisoners with broomsticks and metal bars.

Prison officials opened the prison to journalists from The Associated Press and three other news organizations this week, portraying the atmosphere as tense but under control at the detention center that has been open for 11 years and now holds 166 men, most without charge.

The visit came with certain restrictions. Among them was a prohibition on identifying by name certain officials, such as the Muslim cultural-affairs adviser who blamed the recent troubles, including the expanding hunger strike, on a small group of jihadist "troublemakers" whom he says are trying to make sure at least one fellow prisoner commits suicide.

"Are they done? No, they are not done yet. And there will be more than one death," said the Arab-American adviser, who goes by the name "Zak" and has worked at the prison since September 2005.

Seven prisoners have killed themselves over the years at Guantanamo.

It is the uncertainty over when, if ever, the men held at Guantanamo will be released that has caused widespread despair and frustration among prisoners, lawyers for the men say. President Obama ordered the detention center closed upon taking office, but Congress thwarted him and made it harder to move prisoners elsewhere. Releases and transfers have since become rare.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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