Guantanamo Detainees Collect Food for Haitians

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Allison Lefrak is a Washington lawyer who represents the last of the Russian detainees, Ravil Mingazov, 43, in the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Her client’s habeas corpus hearing is in two weeks and Lefrak was on the phone with him last week when he told her that inmates in his block – Camp 4, the most compliant detainees – were gathering unopened food and beverages for victims of the earthquake in Haiti. The U.S. military is using the Marine base as a staging area for humanitarian relief for Haiti. Though the inmates can’t see the effort from their area, their lawyers are very familiar with it since it’s being done from next to where the attorneys stay when they’re down there. Some counsels have told their clients about what’s going on and the denizens of Camp 4 have limited television privileges and have seen some of the devastation on the news.

“What our client was telling us is it seems so wasteful for all this food to be thrown away and with the Haiti relief mission next door it was common sense to ask to give it to them,” Lefrak told me in a phone call today. Apparently, even unopened food and beverages are discarded. So far the camp guards have not been facilitating the donations, so they’re starting to pile up, she added. “My client told me, ‘I hope this story gets out I hope people realize that they’re all not just a bunch of terrorists and we have hearts, too,’” Lefrak said. I contacted public information officers at Guantanamo Bay for comment and I’ll post when I get it.

I just heard from Commander Brook DeWalt, director of public affairs for joint task for Guantanamo, who says that most meals are served buffet style and while there are certainly leftovers, they aren’t easily or obviously packaged to be sent over to Haiti. He said the prisoners do eat communally and have bottled water and beverages that they theoretically could compile but that there’s usually just an adequate amount given for the population. He also added that as flights have resumed direct into Port-au-Prince and the port has semi-reopened, the U.S. military is no longer using Gitmo as a staging area for relief work.