US General Kelly plays down Guantanamo hunger strike

US general John Kelly Gen John Kelly said inmates were 'eating a bit, not a lot'

Related Stories

A senior United States military commander has played down reports that a group of Guantanamo Bay prison inmates are on hunger strike.

Gen John Kelly, the head of US Southern Command, told the House Armed Services Committee that some prisoners "were eating a bit, but not a lot".

Reports say the protest against alleged mishandling of the Koran began in February. Gen Kelly denied such abuse.

More than 20 inmates are now thought to be on hunger strike, the jail says.

Prison spokesman Navy Capt Robert Durand said the number had risen from 14 on Friday.

Eight of them had lost so much weight that they were being fed through tubes and two were being treated for dehydration, he added.

Gen Kelly said it was difficult to confirm how many of the inmates were on hunger strike, because the prisoners eat communally.

That makes it difficult to know whether they have skipped nine consecutive meals, which is the definition of hunger strike in the detention centre, he said.

"Generally speaking, we think about 24 of them are on, say, hunger strike light, where they're eating a bit but not a lot, but they've declared that they're not eating," Gen Kelly told reporters at the Pentagon.

Last week, a group of 50 lawyers representing Guantanamo prisoners sent a letter to US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel.

They urged him to take measures to end the hunger strike, which they said began on 6 February, after photographs and correspondence were allegedly seized and copies of the Koran mishandled during searches of prisoner's cells.

Gen Kelly called the accusations "nonsense" and put the hunger strike down to "frustration".

"No way has the Koran in any way, shape or form been in any way abused or mistreated," he told reporters.

He said that of the Guantanamo staff, only translators, who were themselves Muslims, were allowed to touch the Koran.

Hunger strikes have happened frequently in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, but this is reportedly one of the longest and more widespread protests.

More on This Story

Related Stories

More US & Canada stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Abdi Nor IftinGolden ticket

    How a refugee entered a lottery and won a new life in the US


  • Herring in a fur coatMerry herring

    How fish 'in a fur coat' is enough to make Russia's New Year happy


  • Curiosity Self Portrait at Windjana Drilling SiteIn pictures

    The most stunning space photos of the year


  • Amy Adams, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock and Dame Judi DenchFilm quiz of 2014

    How much do you remember about the past 12 months?


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • GeoguessrWhere in the world...?

    Think you are a geography expert? Test your knowledge with BBC Travel’s interactive game

Programmes

  • Click presenter Spencer Kelly flies a droneClick Watch

    From wearable technology to drones and robots - highlights from 2014

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.