GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- Military officials found a detainee “almost dying because of hunger and thirst” after a raid to regain control of a communal prison camp early Saturday, a Muslim military liason told reporters on Thursday.
Zak, a longtime Muslim adviser at Guantanamo who goes only by his first name for security reasons, said detainees in the U.S. military prison have “perfected their methods” for suicide. He predicted the ongoing detainee hunger strike would lead to deaths.
"There will be more than one death,” Zak said. “I'm saying it right now, so next time we meet, you can say, 'Okay, Zak, you told us.’" The detainees, he said, “wanted to die out of hunger and thirst behind covered cameras.”
The military counts 59 detainees as engaged in hunger strikes. Zak predicted that number will rise to perhaps 100 as medical officials examine detainees transferred this week from communal living areas into single cells. Authorities raided a communal area over the weekend, injuring two soldiers and five inmates, and forced detainees into individual cells to prevent them from covering cameras. The military said 147 of 160 cameras used by guards to check on the inmates had been covered.
Fifteen detainees are being force-fed and four of those are hospitalized. Reporters listening in on morning prayers in Camp Five early Thursday were quickly escorted outside because a detainee in another block felt faint.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the prison camps at Guantanamo shortly after he took office, but has since abandoned the effort.
The sense of hopelessness for Guantanamo prisoners is what led to the hunger strike, Zak said. That claim contradicts Guantanamo commanders and lawyers for the detainees, who have said the protest was motivated by searches of prisoners' Qurans. The military had claimed prisoners were hiding weapons inside the holy books.
“They were excited, okay, new president, new change, new hope,” Zak said. Even allowing one prisoner to be transferred out of the facility would help defuse the hunger strike, he said. The uncertainty is the cause of the crisis. “Guantanamo will be quiet again once they know what’s going to happen,” Zak said.