U.S. censors Guantanamo prisoner’s sketch of force-feeding of hunger strikers
March 17, 2008   By:    "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques", Detainee, Guantanamo, Hunger Strike   Comments are off   //   372 Views


3:02 p.m. March 17, 2008

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba – The United States has censored a gruesome drawing by a Guantanamo Bay detainee depicting him as a skeleton and being force-fed at the military prison, the man’s lawyers said Monday as they released a recreation of the sketch.The detainee, Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese cameramen for the Al-Jazeera TV network, marked his 431st day on hunger strike Monday at Guantanamo, the American base in Cuba where the U.S. holds some 275 men suspected of terrorism or links with al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

“My picture reflects my nightmares of what I must look like, with my head double-strapped down, a tube in my nose, a black mask over my mouth, with no eyes and only giant cheekbones,” al Haj said in a statement released by the British legal rights group Reprieve.The lawyers said they commissioned a political cartoonist, Lewis Peake, to recreate four of al-Haj‘s drawings, based on descriptions of the censored originals, to reveal “aspects of the prisoners’ suffering in U.S. custody.”

Navy Cmdr. Rick Haupt, a spokesman for the detention center, denied that detainees are mistreated and noted that al-Qaeda trains its operatives to allege inhumane treatment.

“We continue to treat all detainees safely and humanely,” Haupt said.

Haupt said there are seven detainees on hunger strike in a long-running protest over conditions and their indefinite confinement at Guantanamo. All are fed liquid nutrients through a tube inserted into their nostril.

Clive Stafford Smith, one of al Haj‘s lawyers, said the military censorship was motivated by public-relations concerns.

“The motivation is not national security but trying to avoid embarrassment for the illegal acts of the military,” Stafford Smith said.

Titled “Scream for Freedom,” the drawing released Monday depicts a skeleton strapped into a “restraint chair,” which the military uses when force-feeding detainees through a tube inserted through a nostril. A second detainee is strapped into another chair. Between them, the insignia of the Joint Task Force-Guantanamo has been altered to show a skull and crossbones in lieu of a star and outline of Cuba. Al-Haj said detainees call the chairs “torture chairs.”

Lawyer Cori Crider said she saw al-Haj on Feb. 1 and he showed her the four sketches. She said she suspected the military might prevent them from being released, so she also submitted al-Haj’s detailed descriptions of the drawings, which the military did not censor, allowing the images to be recreated. Recreations of three other sketches will be released in coming days.

Al-Haj was captured by Pakistani authorities on the Afghanistan border and turned over to the U.S. He is believed to be the only journalist from a major international news organization held at Guantanamo. Authorities accused him of transporting money in the 1990s for a charity that allegedly funded military groups.

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