Saturday, September 15, 2007

Gitmo Detainee on Hunger Strike is Close to Death

A Sudanese journalist who has been held at Guantanamo for six years is close to death from self-inflicted starvation:

An al-Jazeera journalist captured in Afghanistan six years ago and sent to Guantanamo Bay is close to becoming the fifth detainee at the US naval base to take his own life, according to a medical report written by a team of British and American psychiatrists

Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese national, is 250 days into a hunger strike which he began in protest over his detention without charge or trial in January 2002. But British and American doctors, who have been given exclusive access to his interview notes, say there is very strong evidence that he has given up his fight for life, experiencing what doctors recognise as "passive suicide", a condition suffered by female victims of Darfur.

Dr Dan Creson, a US psychiatrist who has worked with the United Nations in Darfur, said Mr Haj was suffering from severe depression and may be deteriorating to the point of imminent death.
Mr Haj, 38, was sent on assignment by al-Jazeera television station to cover the war in Afghanistan in October 2001. The following month, after the fall of Kabul, Mr Haj left Afghanistan for Pakistan with the rest of his crew.

In early December, the crew were given visas to return to Afghanistan. But when Mr Haj tried to re-enter Afghanistan with his colleagues, he was arrested by the Pakistani authorities – apparently at the request of the US military.

He was imprisoned, handed over to the US authorities in January 2002, taken to the US military compound in Bagram, Afghanisatan, then Kandahar, and finally to Guantanamo in June 2002.

His lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, of the human rights charity Reprieve, said his client had endured months of brutal force-feeding and lost nearly a fifth of his body weight during the hunger strike.

Mr Stafford Smith said: "The US military is rightly afraid of a fifth prisoner dying in their custody. But they wrongly respond by treating prisoners worse. Blankets and clothes are removed in case they are used to commit suicide. The harshest methods of forced feeding are deployed – Sami has suffered the feeding tube being forced down into his lungs by mistake several times."

I don't know that this story has been reported at all in the U.S. news media.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post.

The American Committee to Free Sami Al-Haj has just launched an online petition to the U.S. Congress demanding Sami’s release and an investigation of the Bush Administration’s campaign against Al Jazeera.

Chief said...

Like anyone in the Bush Administration would really care if Sami al-Haj died.