UK sends team to Gitmo in Binyam Mohamed case

A team of British officials flew into Guantánamo Bay Feb. 14 to visit hunger-striking detainee Binyam Mohamed and prepare for his likely return. “The visit will make preparations for his return, should the ongoing US review into Guantanamo Bay detainees confirm a decision to release him,” a Foreign Office statement said. “The team includes a doctor, who would take part in any return, so that he may assess Mr Mohamed’s condition himself and report back.” Mohamed, 30, has been on hunger strike since Jan. 5 and is being force-fed through a tube. He has refugee status in the UK, and Foreign Secretary David Miliband says he wants him back “as soon as possible.” (AFP, Feb. 14*)

The statement by Miliband stopped short of saying that the Barack Obama administration has decided to release Mohammed. Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Defense Department does not discuss visits by foreign delegations to Gitmo. Mohammed’s US military attorney, Air Force Lt. Col. Yvonne R. Bradley, warned British officials that her client’s medical condition is critical, noting that his weight has dropped to 112 pounds. Mohammed weighed 148 when he was brought to the prison, according to military records.

Currently, 41 detainees are on hunger strike at Guantánamo and 35 are being force-fed, said Gordon, who used the term “voluntary fasting.” Prisoners are restrained in a chair as feeding tubes are inserted into one nostril and down to their stomachs, according to federal court filings. A federal judge in Washington, rejecting an emergency motion from two hunger-striking detainees, ruled Feb. 10 that they can continue to be restrained while fed. (Washington Post, Feb. 12)

*Contrary to AFP’s report, Mohammed has been on hunger strike since Jan. 5, not Feb. 5.