Letter: Focus on Guantanamo

On July 31, three local women carried their 24-hour fast to the streets of downtown Greenfield to show their solidarity with the Muslim men stuck indefinitely in Guantanamo Bay Prison. Of the 166 men still incarcerated there, 106 have participated in a hunger strike, some since Feb. 11, as their only means of protesting their indefinite detention without any sign of relief. As of this date, 66 men are starving themselves and 44 of them are being force fed, which is considered torture under international law.

Suzanne Carlson of Greenfield, Sherrill Hogen of Conway and Ellen Kaufmann of Buckland are members of the national Witness Against Torture (WAT), which has been demonstrating and lobbying to close Guantanamo since 2005. WAT has organized a “rolling fast” wherein every day of the past four months individuals all over the country and abroad have foregone food for a 24-hour period to show support for the detainees on hunger strike who are suffering from the nightmare of never knowing when or IF they will ever be released.

Aside from the moral and constitutional issues involved in holding prisoners without charges for over 11 years, taxpayers should be aware that it costs $1.6 million to house one prisoner at Guantanamo for a year, compared to $35,000 per prisoner in a federal prison. It is estimated by the Pentagon that Guantanamo will cost $450 million in 2013.

President Obama has taken note of the hunger strike and renewed efforts to transfer prisoners out of Guantanamo. Two Algerians are to be sent home soon, according to White House spokesman Jay Carney. Obama has appointed a State Department envoy, Clifford Sloan, to investigate closing the facility, and he was to have discussed the issue with the president of Yemen during a recent state visit. The majority of the men who have been cleared for release are from Yemen, but Congress has blocked their repatriation since the “Christmas Bomber” of 2009 was from that country.

Buz Eisenberg, attorney for two Guantanamo detainees will speak on this subject on Aug. 13, 7 p.m., at Northampton Friends, 43 Center St., Northampton. For further information please visit www.closegitmo.net



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