LONDON (AP) – A prisoner being held at Guantanamo Bay says U.S. personnel used methods that amounted to torture to break his hunger strike, a broadcast report said Friday.
“I would still be on the strike if I had any choice. Death is better than continuing life like this,” British Broadcasting Corp. radio quoted Fawzi al-Odah as saying.
A BBC reporter put written questions to al-Odah’s lawyer, Tom Wilner, who wrote down the responses obtained in a meeting at Guantanamo, the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
Colleen Graffy, deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs of the U.S. State Department, told the BBC that Wilner had broken the rules for contacting clients.
“This is not good form,” Graffy said in an interview.
Many of the details of al-Odah’s story were released by Wilner on Feb. 8 after the U.S. Department of Defense agreed to declassify his notes.
The 29-year-old Kuwaiti, in his exchanges with the BBC, repeated his claims that hunger strikers were warned that they would be strapped tightly to a restraint chair and force-fed with a thick tube three times a day if they persisted.
“One guy, a Saudi, told me that he had once been tortured in Saudi Arabia and that this metal chair treatment was worse than any torture he had ever endured or could imagine,” the BBC quoted al-Odah as saying.
When Wilner first released al-Odah’s account last month, U.S. Department of Defense spokesman Bryan Whitman said the feeding was administered by medical professionals in “a humane and compassionate manner” and only when necessary. He said the same process was used in civilian U.S. prisons. Al-Odah said he was not a combatant. “I was simply sold by a Pakistani for money to the United States.”
Graffy, the U.S. official, said all 490 prisoners now held at Guantanamo had gone through procedures to confirm that they were combatants.
“They each have the combatant status review tribunal where they can have representation, they have evidence against them. It’s a way to find out whether they were just caught up at the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said.
“There is an automatic appeal, and it can be appealed to the civilian courts and the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeal. So every single one has gone through that process to indicate that they were a combatant.”
Graffy said journalists from a number of organizations had visited the prison camp, but BBC interviewer John Humphrys protested that they weren’t allowed to speak to prisoners. “Yeah, and what would the prisoners have told them? We’ve gotten an example of that from your interview today,” Graffy said.
Humphrys asked how much longer the United States would keep the camp open in the face of widespread international condemnation.
“If Britain would like to take them, I think there could be negotiations on that,” Graffy said. “But until that, and until they determine that they don’t want to lay down their arms, until they are willing to lay down their arms, I don’t think the international community would want them released.”