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Judge allows restraint chair use in Guantanamo force feedings

Miami Herald
by Carol Rosenberg
May 30, 2009

A federal judge refused Wednesday to stop guards at Guantanamo Bay from strapping hunger strikers into a restraint chair to force feed them through a tube in their nose.

U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler accepted the Pentagon's argument that the use of the restraint chair was humane, and she found that ''significant harm could befall medical and security staff at Guantanamo Bay" in she stopped the practice.

Two Yemenis sought an injunction against use of the chair in a habeas corpus petition in the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C.

One, Mohammed Bawazir, has fasted on-again, off-again for years to protest his confinement. But, his lawyers argued, the 29-year-old Yemeni has never resisted his tube feedings, and did not need to be confined to a restraint chair.

As of Wednesday, 41 of the 245 captives at Guantanamo were on a hunger strike, said Navy Cmdr. Pauline Storum. Of them, 35 were being force-fed twice a day through a regime that involves strapping a shackled captive to a chair and Velcroing his head to a metal restraint. Camp staff run a tube through the man's nose into his stomach and then pump in a protein shake. Each feeding lasts about an hour.

Both detainees claimed that they were left strapped to the chair much longer than an hour, a claim the judge said was true based on prison camp medical records.

The judge noted that she was sympathetic to the detainees' plight, even as she ruled against them.

''The detainees at Guantanamo Bay have waited many long years (some have waited more than seven years) to have their cases heard by a judge,'' she wrote. "During that time they, like all prisoners, have remained at the mercy of their captors.

"From all accounts -- those presented in classified information the Court has had access to, in affidavits of counsel and in reports from journalists and human rights groups -- their living conditions at Guantanamo Bay have been harsh.''

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