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U.S. rejects call to stop force-feedings at Guantanamo for Ramadan

From Natalia Perez and Chris Lawrence, CNN
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The military says prisoners will be force-fed in the early morning and late evening
  • The U.S. says the feedings provide essential nutrition and medical care
  • Four prisoners say the feedings violate the Ramadan fast
  • The U.S. also denies giving detainees Reglan

(CNN) -- The U.S. government on Wednesday refused to stop force-feeding prisoners at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during Ramadan.

In court papers rejecting a petition by detainees, the United States said the feedings provide "essential nutrition and medical care" and do not interfere with the detainees' religious fasting during Ramadan, the holy month that begins on the evening of July 8.

The tube-feedings will take place in the early morning and late evening to help detainees comply with Ramadan restrictions, said Navy Capt. Robert Durand, spokesman for the detention facility.

Shaker Aamer, Ahmed Belbacha, Nabil Hadjarab and Abu Wa'el Dhiab filed a lawsuit Sunday arguing that the feedings violate the Ramadan daily fast from dawn to sunset.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order on January 22, 2009, to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. Nearly six years later, the prison for terrorism suspects remains open. Click through for a look inside the controversial facility. Here, President George W. Bush's official picture is replaced by Obama's in the lobby of the headquarters of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo on January 20, 2009, the day the latter was sworn in as president. President Barack Obama signed an executive order on January 22, 2009, to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. Nearly six years later, the prison for terrorism suspects remains open. Click through for a look inside the controversial facility. Here, President George W. Bush's official picture is replaced by Obama's in the lobby of the headquarters of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo on January 20, 2009, the day the latter was sworn in as president.
Inside Guantanamo Bay
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Photos: Inside Guantanamo Bay Photos: Inside Guantanamo Bay

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler had set a deadline of noon Wednesday for the government to respond.

Lt. Col Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman, said the military has changed force-feeding times at Guantanamo during Ramadan for years, but doing so "is an accommodation, not a right."

Of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo, 106 are on hunger strike, Breasseale said.

In its court filing, the U.S. Justice Department also denied claims that it was giving the drug Reglan to the detainees.

Gitmo hunger strikers: 'What more can they do to me?'

Daily life at Gitmo: Hunger strikes, sprays of filth

CNN's Josh Levs contributed to this report.

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