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Number of Detainees on Hunger Strike at Camp X-Ray Increases to 194

Aired February 28, 2002 - 14:44   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We've got another breaking development. It's been happening all day. This time, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and that's where we join Bob Franken, who has an update there -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, prison officials have just briefed reporters, and now say that this protest that's been going on at Camp X-Ray has expanded a little bit. The number of detainees, first of all, who refused lunch is now 194. That's up from breakfast this morning, which was 107.

Secondly, at about 9:45 Eastern Time, about half the detainees, according to officials, started chanting. Chanting a rough translation, "God is great. There no God but God." And in addition to which, started pushing out of their cells their bedding -- their sheets, their mattresses, their pillows, that type of thing.

All of this is a protest for an incident that happened on Tuesday, when guards forced their way into a detainee's cell after he seemed to be ignoring orders to take off a turban he had fashioned out of a sheet. There are some security concerns about turbans here, because of the possibility to conceal something dangerous.

But what they found out when they shackled him and removed the turban, it was in fact that he was praying, and was completely focused on his prayer. That has caused the protest, which is still going on. Now, medical officials say that they are prepared, if the hunger strike would spread or continue, they would be prepared to prevent dehydration or starvation by forcing intravenous feedings on the detainees. Not force feeding, but IVs.

But in the meantime, General Michael Leonard, who is the commander of the entire operation out here, is on his way to Camp X- Ray to address the detainees and then address the guards to try and quell things. Now, reporters were over on that side of the island while all this was going on. They kept this information secret from reporters while it was occurring, and brought us back to a side of the island. They have kept the press away. They have not allowed us access to Camp X-Ray.

The people with the press have raised a strong protest, but at the moment we have not been allowed to be at Camp X-Ray to witness what is going on -- Fredricka. WHITFIELD: Now, Bob, now that things seem to be unsettled once again there. Earlier, you reported that U.S. authorities there might be issuing a apology to the detainees there, who felt that their prayer was being disrupted. I imagine that may be put on hold, or has that already happened?

FRANKEN: As a matter of fact, they've been asked about an apology and said that at that particular time there were no plans. They were reviewing the situation. Of course, as I said, we're not permitted now to be there. And General Leonard goes out to address the detainees to see what they would say, reporters are saying that the news is being improperly controlled.

The response would probably be that there are some security concerns. But at the moment, we do not know, because we're not there, what General Leonard is saying. Regrettably, the only source of our information is the briefing we get from the military officials.

WHITFIELD: All right. Getting around there, not easy, given the fact that it's a U.S. Navy military base, and you must be escorted or at least get permission to move around there. So, thanks very much, Bob Franken, for that report.

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Increases to 194>


 
 
 
 


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