A Connecticut woman and two others in Cuba to protest treatment of suspected terrorists detained at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay headed back home Tuesday, while 22 other activists continued a water-only fast at a Cuban military checkpoint outside the base.
The three members of the largely Christian group Witness Against Torture said they had to leave in order to fulfill prior commitments. They planned to fly home via the Bahamas after stopping in Havana where they spoke with reporters.
Jackie Allen of Hartford, Conn., said the actions of the U.S. government have “horrified” her, and urged other Americans to start protesting.
“We hope this is a ripple in the pond, and that the ripples will grow and go on and on, so that there’s a movement for the abolition of torture,” said Allen.
The three participated in a five-day march from the eastern city of Santiago to the Cuban checkpoint about five miles (eight kilometers) outside the U.S. base, where the group set up tents after arrival Sunday night.
We are going “to spread the word that people are being tortured at Guantanamo,” said Patricia Santoro, of Jersey City, N.J. “It isn’t a myth, like most Americans believe. Our government has disgraced us, and I will tell everyone I see and know about this experience.”
The protesters began the fast Monday, demanding entrance to the U.S. base to meet with inmates. Stacey Byington, a civilian spokeswoman for U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, told The Associated Press in an e-mail message that access to the base is limited to those with official or authorized business.
The Guantanamo detention center has become a symbol of the controversy over detainee abuse by the U.S. military. Thirty-two prisoners are on hunger strike to protest what they say is cruel and inhumane treatment.
Twenty-five of those prisoners are being fed through tubes.
U.S. officials insist the hundreds of prisoners held at Guantanamo are treated humanely at the remote base on Cuba’s eastern tip. The government says they are enemy combatants, not prisoners of war, and are not entitled to the same rights afforded under the Geneva Conventions.