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Guantanamo case brings force-feeding issue to federal court

Guantamo Bay Gitmo

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

This image reviewed by the US military shows the guard tower at the front gate of "Camp Five" and "Camp Six" detention facility of the Joint Detention Group at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, January 19, 2012.

In 2007, a Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo went on a hunger strike to protest conditions at the US-run prison.

Since then, his lawyers claim, Emad Hassan has been force-fed more than 5,000 times.

"Twice a day feeding tubes are being inserted, withdrawn, inserted again and withdrawn again. This is contrary to customary medical practice for a long-term nasal gastric tube feeding," Jon Eisenberg, attorney for Hassan, told Take Two. "It's painful, it's dangerous to keep removing and re-inserting the tube, it's being done for no other reason than to cause these men pain and suffering."

The US Military's Joint Task Force Guantanamo wouldn't comment on the specifics of this case, but Navy Commander John Filostrat said the practice of force-feeding was "medically sound" and based on legal practices.

"The decision to internally feed or force feed a detainee is based solely on medical criteria and the judgement of medical personnel and the whole focus of this is the health and welfare of detainees," Filostrat told Take Two from Guantanamo.

If Emad Hassan's case moves forward, this could be new legal territory for federal courts and would address, specifically, how and when force-feeding takes place.

"This is the first time that federal courts will have the chance to weigh in on force-feeding," said Mattathias Schwartz, a reporter who has covered the legal process in Guantanamo and is author of the book "Camp Justice."

The court will decide whether it can be considered torture and whether, in the case of Hassan, the practice has to stop, said Schwartz.


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