More prisoners have joined a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention at the US-run Guantanamo military prison, with 92 out of 166 detainees refusing food, a spokesman said on Wednesday.
Among them, 17 are on feeding tubes and two are hospitalised but do not have “life-threatening conditions”, Lieutenant Colonel Samuel House said in a statement.
The rapidly growing movement began on February 6, lawyers for the detainees said. Prison authorities began releasing figures on the strike on March 15, saying 14 inmates were participating.
Lawyers for the detainees say the official numbers are still too low.
David Remes, a lawyer who represents 15 prisoners, said some 130 prisoners have been on strike since February.
“At first, GTMO denied that there was a hunger strike. Since then, its count has risen from 0 to 92. Soon they’ll hit the mark despite themselves,” he said.
House also confirmed that two prisoners had attempted suicide on or around April 13, when some 60 detainees were transferred from communal cells into individual ones after guards fired non-lethal shots to quell prisoner unrest.
House said only “10 to 15 are still in communal” cells, indicating that many detainees refuse to comply with prison rules.
“Some of them are continuing to throw faeces, urine and blood at the guards,” he said.
The spokesman said “as soon as the detainees show a proper compliance with the rules, then we will move them back into communal.”
“It’s all up to the detainees,” he added.
He said the separation also allowed the guards, accompanied by doctors, to ask inmates “on an individual basis: do you want to be a hunger striker?” far from the influence of the leaders in the cell blocks.
The hunger strikers are protesting their incarceration without charge or trial at Guantanamo in the 11 years since the prison went into use for terror suspects detained in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The hunger strikes began on February 6, when inmates claimed prison officials searched their Korans for contraband. Officials have denied any mishandling of Islam’s holy book.