Amid hunger strike, after clash, Guantanamo tenser

Nearly all prisoners have been locked down for most of the day since a violent clash with guards on April 13.


Nearly all prisoners have been locked down for most of the day since a violent clash with guards on April 13.

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — The morning routine started before dawn with a prisoner chanting the Muslim call to prayer through a small opening in the door of his cell as soldiers with face shields quietly paced in the corridor. The calm did not last long.

Within minutes, troops began rushing about, the words ‘‘code yellow’’ echoing through their handheld radios. The emergency was a prisoner in another cellblock who did not appear to be moving, prompting the urgent call to the medics to come check him, something they have been called upon to do many times in recent weeks, said the Army captain in charge of the maximum-security section of the Guantanamo Bay prison known as Camp 5.


Officials later said the man who sparked the alarm Thursday was OK, merely faint and dizzy, and he did not have to be hospitalized as others have had amid a weeks-old hunger strike at the prison. Still, it was an illustration of just how tense Guantanamo has become of late, with more than a third of the prisoners refusing to eat and nearly everyone locked down for most of the day since a violent clash with guards on April 13. At least two detainees have tried to kill themselves since that confrontation between guards in riot gear and prisoners with broomsticks and metal bars.

Officials opened the prison to journalists this week, portraying the atmosphere as tense but under control at this detention center that has been open for 11 years and now holds 166 men, most without charge.

Seven prisoners have killed themselves over the years at Guantanamo. ‘‘Are they done? No, they are not done yet. And there will be more than one death,’’ said an Arab-American Muslim cultural affairs adviser, who goes by “Zak’’ and has worked at the prison since September 2005.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

It is the uncertainty over when, if ever, the men held at Guantanamo will be released that has caused widespread despair and frustration among prisoners, lawyers for the men say. President Obama ordered the detention center closed upon taking office, but Congress thwarted him and made it harder to move prisoners elsewhere.

‘‘Until such time as our government starts to do the right thing in connection with Guantanamo Bay, the frustration is only going to continue to build, and I can’t imagine what the outcome will be,’’ said Navy Lieutenant Commander Kevin Bogucki, a military lawyer visiting clients at the base this week.

Loading comments...
Real journalists. Real journalism. Subscribe to The Boston Globe today.