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White House monitoring Guantanamo hunger strike

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The White House said Wednesday it was closely monitoring a growing hunger strike among inmates at Guantanamo Bay and reiterated President Barack Obama's vow to close the prison facility.

Officials also noted that the International Committee of the Red Cross was sending a delegation to check conditions at the US military prison, a visit brought forward by the hunger strike.

More than two dozen detainees have been refusing food to protest at their indefinite detention, amid what defense lawyers have described as mounting despair inside the prison.

"I can tell you that the White House and the president's team is closely monitoring the hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay," said Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman.

"The administration remains committed to closing the detention facility."

David Remes, an attorney for 15 Guantanamo detainees told AFP last week that the hunger strike in its seventh week was unprecedented in its scope, duration and determination.

As of Friday, 26 detainees were on hunger strike -- nearly double the number from a week earlier -- with feeding tubes administered to eight, according to military authorities at the US naval base.

The strike was launched at Camp 6 in Guantanamo on February 6, when a "routine" inmate search took place. Detainees said guards had inspected their Korans, which they perceived as "religious desecration."

Camp 6, built on the hills around Guantanamo, houses inmates who pose no particular threat and have no special value in the eyes of US authorities.

Earnest referred to reports that a Red Cross team was heading to Guantanamo as part of a routine agreement to inspect conditions at the prison.

"We give them full access so that they can take a look at what's happening at the prison there," he said.

Obama promised to close the camp in one of the first acts of his presidency in 2009, but his efforts have been frustrated by opposition to moving inmates to the US mainland in Congress and the difficulty of finding nations willing to accept detainees who are freed.

Thorny legal issues surrounding trials for prisoners considered to be the most dangerous inmates have also hampered Obama's efforts.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130327/white-house-monitoring-guantanamo-hunger-strike