Former Guantánamo detainee tells of force-feed


June 15, 2013 | Ben Fox for Associated Press

Ahmed Zuhair at Guantanamo in prison camp

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — For more than three months, the U.S. military has faced off with defiant prisoners on a hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay, strapping down as many as 44 each day to feed them a liquid nutrient mix through a nasal tube to prevent them from starving to death.

The standoff, which prompted President Barack Obama to renew his call to close the detention center, has grown to involve 104 of the 166 prisoners as of Saturday, and may be nearing a crisis point. Yet the experience of a former detainee demonstrates that a hunger strike at Guantánamo can be as indefinite as the open-ended detention that is at the heart of essentially every conflict at the military prison.

The men undergoing forced-feeding aren’t permitted to speak to journalists, but Ahmed Zuhair, 47, knows what the experience is like. Until he was released from U.S. custody in 2009, he and another prisoner had the distinction of staging the longest hunger strikes at the prison. Zuhair kept at it for four years in a showdown that at times turned violent.

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