MIAMI — A lawyer for a Guantanamo Bay prisoner is calling on the U.S. Justice Department to release photos of wounds the man suffered when struck with non-lethal rounds at a recent clash with guards at the prison.
Attorney Ramzi Kassem's letter to a Justice Department official, which was released on Friday, also calls for a review of the April 13 incident, describing the wounds suffered by his client as more serious than portrayed by the U.S. military.
Moath al-Alwi, a prisoner from Yemen, was struck with rubber-coated pellets fired from a shotgun-like weapon in the chest as well as in the thigh, left elbow and shoulder, leaving his clothes "blood-soaked and torn," according to the letter.
"At such close range, it is well known that rubber-coated steel bullets can be lethal and should therefore never be employed," said Kassem, also a law professor at the City University of New York.
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the government is reviewing the letter. A U.S. military spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Samuel House, said he was not aware of any further review of the April 13 clash, in which soldiers in riot gear swept into a unit known as Camp 6 to move prisoners out of a communal area and into single cells, where they remain.
The U.S. military has said it carried out the raid because prisoners had covered up security cameras, making it impossible for guards to monitor them as they carried out a hunger strike to protest conditions and their indefinite confinement at the U.S. base in Cuba.
The military has said five prisoners were struck with non-lethal rounds and described the injuries to prisoners during the raid as minor bruises. Their names were not released. House declined to release a copy of the photo, suggesting a request for it be made through the Freedom of Information Act.
Kassem said in his letter that al-Alwi was still in pain about 10 days after the incident and was among the prisoners taking part in the hunger strike, which has roiled the prison since early February.
Al-Alwi is approximately 36 and has been described in government records as a member of al-Qaida who was a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. He has not been charged.
The military said as of Friday that 102 of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo met its definition of hunger strikers, a determination based on factors that include body weight and the number of meals refused. The military is force-feeding 30 of the prisoners with a liquid nutrient mix to prevent them from starving to death, over the objections of human rights groups.