Lawyers for one of the five men accused of helping plot the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks say that their client is facing threats of being force fed amid his refusal to eat after being isolated from other prisoners in Guantánamo Bay.
The New York Times reported that defense attorneys for 49-year-old Ramzi bin al-Shibh demanded in a court filing dated July 9 that legal authorities move to prevent the alleged threats.
Bin al-Shibh and four other men accused of conspiring in the terrorist attacks have been in pretrial proceedings since their arraignment in 2012, and in April were moved to the Guantánamo maximum security prison from CIA custody.
People with knowledge of bin al-Shibh’s conditions told the Times that the man has been considered the most disruptive of the five detainees, repeatedly shouting at night in his new cell and covering the surveillance camera, ultimately leading guards to put him in isolation late last month.
Bin al-Shibh's lawyers say that he has since started a hunger strike in protest of being placed in isolation.
“Mr. bin al-Shibh does not seek to die or injure himself,” the lawyers said in the military court filing, according to the Times.
“He does not even seek to end his discipline,” the attorneys continued. “Instead, he seeks to end his isolation and return to his previous location, where his fellow detainees can be aware of what is happening to him as before.”
The man’s attorneys alleged that earlier this month, prison staff told their client that he would be force fed if he did not begin eating soon.
The lawyers are requesting that the military court “review the procedures for force-feeding to ensure they are not unnecessarily invasive or harmful.”
Defense Department spokesman Mike Howard told the Times that none of the 40 people currently being held at Guantánamo were being forcibly fed “at this time,” adding that the facility’s “medical team ensures that detainees that may be conducting self-imposed fasting are not creating damage to their long-term health.”
“Any detainee who chooses to conduct a self-imposed fast is made aware of the consequences of this decision,” Howard added.
According to the Times, the spokesman also said that military officials “do not use solitary confinement at Guantánamo.”
Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly called for the closure of Guantánamo, with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick DurbinDick DurbinGOP blocks debt limit hike, government funding The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats stare down 'hell' week Biden sidesteps GOP on judicial vacancies, for now MORE (D-Ill.) and 23 of his Democratic colleagues writing in an April letter to President BidenJoe BidenFord to bolster electric vehicle production in multi-billion dollar push Protesters demonstrate outside Manchin's houseboat over opposition to reconciliation package Alabama eyes using pandemic relief funds on prison system MORE that the facility is a "symbol of lawlessness and human rights abuses.”
On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee voted to advance a $706 billion Pentagon spending bill that in part aims to close the Guantánamo detention facility by prohibiting funds from being used for operations after Sept. 30, 2022.