Judge orders government to turn over Guantanamo videotapes of prisoner, medical records

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A federal judge on Wednesday brushed aside the Justice Department's objections and ordered the government to produce 34 videotapes of a hunger-striking prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay naval base.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler also ordered the government to turn over medical records from last year for the prisoner, Abu Wa'el Dhiab.

Each of the tapes shows the prisoner being removed from his cell and force-fed. Lawyers for Dhiab have challenged his treatment as abusive.

Dhiab's lawyers say the U.S. government has cleared him for release. Media reports in Uruguay say he is one of a few Syrians held at Guantanamo who are being considered for resettlement in the South American country. U.S. officials have declined to confirm those reports.

Last Friday Kessler imposed a temporary restraining order that directs the military to stop force-feeding Dhiab. A Defense Department spokesman, Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, has said the military only feeds prisoners against their will to keep them alive, and follows all laws when it does so.

Prisoners at Guantanamo have engaged in hunger strikes for years to protest their confinement. The military force-feeds prisoners a liquid nutrient mix through a nasal tube when doctors determine 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.

Dhiab, 42, has been held without charge at Guantanamo since August 2002.

According to a court filing by one of Dhiab's lawyers, the prisoner said Monday in a telephone call that he had resumed his hunger strike, and that the medical staff had told him he would once again be force-fed if he did not begin eating.

The attorney said his client also told him the military's videotaping of the force-feeding process is incomplete and manipulated.

In all, there are 136 videotapes of Dhiab. The judge chose the 34 tapes because they are "the most pertinent," including both forcible removal from the prisoner's cell and force-feeding.