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Judge bans force-feeding of Guantanamo Bay hunger strikers

A WASHINGTON judge has ordered the US military to stop force-feeding hunger striking prisoner Abu Wa'el Dhiab at its Guantanamo Bay concentration camp.

The order from US District Court Judge Gladys Kessler, made late last Friday, bars the force feeding of Mr Dhiab at least until a hearing on Wednesday. 

It also directs the military to stop forcibly removing him from his cell.

Judge Kessler stated that the government must preserve all videotaped evidence of his force-feedings and forcible cell extractions, the existence of which Justice Department lawyers admitted only last week.

Lawyers for the prisoner, who was cleared for release in 2009, have challenged his treatment during the hunger strike as part of a broader approach and are seeking a court order for his release. 

They welcomed Judge Kessler's order on force feeding as an important step.

"This is a major crack in Guantanamo's years-long effort to oppress prisoners and to exercise total control over information about the prison," said defence lawyer Cori Crider from British legal rights group Reprieve, which is representing Mr Dhiab.

And Jon Eisenberg, another member of the legal team, added: "We are very grateful to Judge Kessler for recognising the need for judicial relief. 

“The force feeding that has been happening at Guantanamo Bay is a stain on our country and must end." 

Defence Department spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale claimed that the military only feeds prisoners against their will to keep them alive and follows all laws when it does so. 

Guantanamo detainees have engaged in hunger strikes for years to protest against their illegal confinement. 

The military force feeds prisoners through a nasal tube against their will when doctors at the base say it is necessary. 

Officials no longer disclose how many of the 154 prisoners at the base are on hunger strike and meet the guidelines for force feeding.

Mr Dhiab has been held without charge at Guantanamo since August 2002.

Uruguayan media report that he is one of a handful of Syrians being considered for resettlement there. 

US officials have refused to confirm the reports.

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