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Hunger Strike at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Aired February 28, 2002 - 11:03   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: While we're deal with that breaking story, we have another breaking story right now to deal with. This in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the detainees from Afghanistan are being held right now. We're getting word there may be some kind of disturbance or something going on.

Our Bob Franken is there down on the island, and he checks in now on the phone. Bob, what are you hearing?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First of all, I have to challenge the word "disturbance." It's a very overly strong word.

What we have here is about a third of the detainee whose are refuting -- refusing to eat, and it's because of a specific incident. A few started yesterday with what has amounted to A very short hunger strike, and it's gone to about a third of detainees, according to officials. And it has to do with an incident that occurred yesterday when one of the detainees according to officials fashioned a turban out of his sheet. That violates rules of security here. There are concerns about concealing things. So the guards repeatedly, through translators, told him to remove the turban, and he did not respond, so they burst in his cage.

The problem was that they burst into his cell while the detainees was praying, and according to officials here, they are told that they are to focus entirely on the prayer while they're doing it. So the result has been this protest from the detainees. Now, in response to this, the officials here are reorienting the guards, giving them a briefing again.

They say that there's no apology, but they're watching this closely. The officials said that the detainees not allowed to starve themselves anything like that. They will be watching closely to see if this hunger strike goes. If ti extends to this noon hour, they will continue to monitor the situation, they said, and see whether, in fact, they need to take further action, whether more counseling of the guards.

No discipline expected against the guards. Although he followed procedures, but he just followed procedures at what they called -- quote -- "an unfortunate time."

In addition to this, the spokesman for the military here, the Major Steve Cox, says that the underlying problem is a tension relating to the detainee situation. I'm quoting from him, "an uncertainty about the future." The problem is, he says, We don't have answers about that yet."

At the moment, this is a hunger strike that they're watching closely, about a third of detainees, in response to that incident where a prayer was interrupted.

Bob Franken, CNN, live, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

HARRIS: Very interesting.

Bob, before you go, let me ask you something they say that they won't allow them to starve themselves. How do they not let someone starve themselves?

FRANKEN: Well, we asked that, and we wouldn't get specific. Obviously,k what they're talking about is force feeding. That of course is something quite far down the road. They are just watching the situation now.

And the important thing to note is, we been hearing for days reports that there is increasing tension here, tension that has been expressed in very mild ways, from what they call indiscipline to follow orders, that kind of thing. Officials emphasize that with their very severe security procedures, they're not worried about this proceeding in anything larger than the type of protest you're seeing right now.

HARRIS: OK. Good deal. Bob Franken on the phone from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Thanks very much.

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