Cindy Sheehan, mother of a US soldier killed in Iraq, was among several US citizens who arrived in Cuba on Jan. 6 in preparation for a series of actions Jan. 9-13 to protest the US military’s use of its Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba to detain Muslim men captured as alleged “enemy combatants” in the “war on terror.” The rest of the delegation is scheduled to arrive on Jan. 9 for a press conference that day in Havana, followed by a Jan. 10 conference in the Cuban city of Guantanamo on prison conditions and international law.
On Jan. 11, the fifth anniversary of the date in 2002 when the first “enemy combatant” detainees arrived at the Guantanamo base, the delegation will march from the city of Guantanamo to the security gate of the US naval base to hold an interfaith service and call for the closing of the prison. The trip will end with another press conference in Havana on Jan. 13. A smaller group from the delegation will then travel to the US to lobby Congress to shut the prison, restore habeas corpus, repeal the Military Commissions Act, and give all detainees fair trials or release them.
Members of the full delegation include Asif Iqbal, a former Guantanamo detainee who was freed after years of abuse, and Zohra Zewawi, the mother of British citizen Omar Deghayes, who has been detained at Guantanamo since September 2002. Zewawi says her son has been tortured and blinded in one eye during his detention; he has never been charged or tried for anything. Also participating are Medea Benjamin, director of Global Exchange, and Bill Goodman, legal director of the US Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which has taken the cases of Guantanamo detainees to the US Supreme Court. The protest is being organized by Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace. Witness Against Torture, a campaign to shut down the Guantanamo prison, is coordinating a parallel series of Jan. 11 actions in Washington. (AP, Jan. 6; CODEPINK press release, Jan. 3; WitnessTorture.org, accessed Jan. 7)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 7
See also our last post on Cuba.