Posts tagged “Cuba

Guantanamo Bay: Force feedings that test US secrecy

Guantanamo Bay: Force feedings that test US secrecy

Protestors, shown here at the Supreme Court in 2013, have asked justices for better treatment of detainees Protesters, shown here at the Supreme Court in 2013, have called for better treatment of detainees

For years judges have accepted the idea that accounts of detainees at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be kept secret. This week, one judge pushed back.

With oversized glasses and short, curly hair, US District Judge Gladys Kessler looks more like a school principal than a person who makes radical judgements about the government.

Sitting in a room decorated with thick, blue carpeting in a courthouse in Washington, she smiled. “It’s always nice to see a full courtroom,” she said. …

read more:

Some at Guantanamo jail too sick to keep locked up

Knoxville News Sentinel - Printer-friendly story

Some at Guantanamo jail too sick to keep locked up

BEN FOX – Associated Press (AP)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

MIAMI (AP) — Tarek El-Sawah is in terrible shape after 11 years as a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, a fact even the U.S. military does not dispute.

During his time in captivity, the weight of the 55-year-old Egyptian has nearly doubled, reaching more than 420 pounds at one point, and his health has deteriorated as a result, both his lawyers and government officials concede.

Lawyers for El-Sawah, and the doctors they have brought down to the U.S. base in Cuba to examine him, paint a dire picture — a morbidly obese man with diabetes and a range of other serious ailments. He is short of breath, barely able to walk 10 feet, unable to stay awake in meetings and faces the possibility of not making it out of prison alive.

“We are very afraid that he is at a high risk of death, that he could die at any moment,” said Marine Lt. Col. Sean Gleason, a military lawyer appointed to represent him.

Details about the condition of El-Sawah, who has admitted being an al-Qaida explosives trainer but is no longer facing charges, are emerging in a series of recently filed court motions that provide a rare glimpse into the health of an unusual prisoner, and a preview of arguments that may become more common as the Guantanamo Bay prison ages into a second decade with no prospects for closure in sight.

He’s not the only one of the 164 prisoners at Guantanamo who is seriously ill. Last week, a judge ordered the release of a schizophrenic Sudanese man who spent much of the past decade medicated in the prison psych ward. His lawyers argued he was so sick, with ailments that also included diabetes, that he couldn’t possibly pose a threat and therefore the U.S. no longer had the authority to hold him. The judge’s ruling came after the government withdrew its opposition to his release.

There’s also a Pakistani prisoner, Saifullah Paracha, with a heart condition serious enough that the government brought a surgical team and a mobile cardiac lab to the U.S. base in Cuba to treat him, at a cost of $400,000. He ultimately refused the treatment because he didn’t trust military medical personnel.

In addition, two prisoners have died from natural causes — one from a heart attack, the other from cancer. And several detainees have raised medical complaints related to their participation in a long-running hunger strike, which had dropped to 17 prisoners as of Monday from a peak of 106 in July.

“There are a whole slew of people with a whole slew of serious health problems,” said Cori Crider, a lawyer for the British human rights group Reprieve who has been meeting with Guantanamo prisoners for years.

U.S. officials say Guantanamo prisoners get excellent medical care, saying proudly that it’s equivalent to what troops receive. There are more than 100 doctors, nurses and other professionals treating “a constellation” of illnesses, said Navy Capt. Daryl Daniels, a physician and the chief medical officer for the detention center. He says no one is in critical condition at the moment.

“They are an aging population and they are starting to show some signs of being an older group of people,” Daniels said.

In August, lawyers for El-Sawah filed an emergency motion with a federal court in Washington asking a judge to order the military to provide what it calls “adequate” medical care, including additional tests for possible heart disease and a device to help him breathe because of a condition they say is preventing his brain from receiving enough oxygen.

The government insists he is getting good care at Guantanamo and just needs to exercise more and eat less. “While (El-Sawah) is currently in poor health, his life is not in imminent danger,” lawyers for the Justice Department wrote in response.

The judge hasn’t ruled, but the request is secondary anyway. What El-Sawah and his lawyers want is the U.S. to release him, preferably back home to Egypt, in part because his health is too poor for him to pose any threat. “It boggles the mind that they are putting up a fight on releasing him,” Gleason said.

El-Sawah, who is 5 feet, 10 inches, was around 215 pounds when he arrived at Guantanamo in May 2002 after his capture in Afghanistan. Photos from before his capture show a man with a bit of girth but not in apparently ill health. One of his lawyers, Mary Petras, says he was obese by the time she first met him in March 2006.

“When he first got to Guantanamo 11 years ago he was not obese,” Gleason said. “And during those 11 years he was under the custody, control and medical supervision of the United States government.”

El-Sawah at one point faced charges of conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. The government withdrew the charges and told his lawyers they had no plans to file new charges. He has reportedly cooperated with interrogators but his lawyers declined to comment when asked about it.

His lawyers hope to either to win a ruling either from the court or from a review board of government officials that the Pentagon announced Wednesday had begun re-evaluating case files to determine if any prisoners can be added to the list of those approved for release as part of the effort to close the prison. El-Sawah has received letters of recommendation from three former Guantanamo commanders, a rare, if unprecedented, string of endorsements.

In one letter, retired Army Maj. Gen. Jay Hood called him a unique prisoner who was “unlike the violent Islamic extremists who formed much of the population at Guantanamo.” Another, Rear Adm. David Thomas, noted his “restricted mobility due to obesity and other health issues” in recommending his release.

Most striking is a letter from an official whose name and job title are redacted for security reasons. He spent several hours a week with the prisoner over 18 months at Guantanamo and says El-Sawah has been “friendly and cooperative” with U.S. personnel. “Frankly, I felt Tarek was a good man on the other side who, in a different world, different time, different place, could easily be accepted as a friend or neighbor.”


Associated Press writer Ben Fox reported this story from Miami and at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.


Ben Fox on Twitter:

UN report calls on Cuba to release Alan Gross – DC Breaking Local News Weather Sports FOX 5 WTTG



Indicium-1899-Cuba-5centavos (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UN report calls on Cuba to release Alan Gross – DC Breaking Local News Weather Sports FOX 5 WTTG.

UN report calls on Cuba to release Alan Gross

    Posted: Jan 08, 2013 9:55 PM Updated: Jan 08, 2013 9:55 PM



    Alan Gross (left) in July 2009 and Gross in May 2012 (right) Alan Gross (left) in July 2009 and Gross in May 2012 (right)

    WASHINGTONA United Nations group is calling on the Cuban government to release an American who has been held in the country for more than three years, saying his imprisonment is unfair.  

    A 12-page report by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was released Tuesday by a lawyer for the American, Alan Gross. The report is dated November 23 and had previously been released to the Cuban government. Cuba blasted the report’s conclusion in early December, saying that the U.S. government had put pressure on the UN group and arguing Gross had been fairly tried. But Cuban officials did not release the report itself.

    Gross was arrested in December 2009 while working on a project to set up wireless Internet connections for Cuba’s Jewish community. He was working as a subcontractor for USAID, the US government agency in charge of foreign economic development. U.S. officials have portrayed the work as purely humanitarian.

    But Gross was violating Cuban law by doing work for USAID in the country, since under Cuban law such activities must be authorized. Reports that Gross wrote on several trips to Cuba show he knew the work was risky. He was later sentenced to 15 years in prison, and the case has since become a major sticking point in talks between the United States and Cuba.

    The working group — whose members include lawyers and professors from Senegal, Pakistan, Ukraine, Chile and Norway — has no enforcement powers, but the ruling could put pressure on the Cuban government to release Gross.

    The report repeated criticisms of Cuba’s judicial system, saying it is not impartial, and also criticized the offense Gross was charged with, committing crimes against the state, as imprecise and vague. The report also says the 63-year-old Maryland man should have been released on bail while awaiting trial instead of being held in a Cuban prison for more than a year.

    In response, Gross’ wife on Tuesday also sent a letter to Cuban President Raul Castro.

    “Given this ruling, I would like to know why your Government is ignoring the declaration of the United Nations that his imprisonment to be wrongful and its request for Alan’s immediate release?” she wrote.

    By JESSICA GRESKO Associated Press

    Read more:
    Follow us:
    @myfoxdc on Twitter | myfoxdc on Facebook


    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 306 other followers