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Protests worldwide mark the 5-year anniversary of Guantanamo

From anti-Iraq war mom Cindy Sheehan in Cuba to protesters in a Washington, D.C., courthouse, demonstrators fanned out across the globe Thursday to protest America's five-year-old experiment in offshore incarceration at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The protests came as a top Democrat said Congress would scrutinize the Bush administration's handling of the Guantanamo prison camps with an eye toward closing the facility.

"The new Democratic majority has every intention of conducting vigorous oversight on these issues and getting answers on the administration's detention practices," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. "The administration has said it hopes to close the facility at Guantanamo, an objective that I share."

About 100 protesters were arrested in a Washington courthouse, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon used his first news conference to likewise call for closure of the remote U.S. prison in southeast Cuba.

"Gitmo prison is a source of shame. No more torture in our name," chanted protesters in Cuba-controlled Guantanamo, where Sheehan marched with a dozen or so international protesters on the other side of a minefield from the U.S. Navy base.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups choreographed the daylong protests from Europe to Australia to the Americas on five years to the day when the Pentagon opened the detention and interrogation center for international captives airlifted from Afghanistan.

The protests achieved their desired results.

News photographs of orange jumpsuit-clad protesters—on the march, on their knees or in chains—splashed across the Internet from such far-flung cities as Melbourne, Australia, Budapest, Hungary, and Thessaloniki, Greece.

The Pentagon argues that the prison camps are a war-on-terror necessity. About 395 men and teens are held there, some of whom could soon face war-crimes trials, once the Defense Department unveils its new design for military commissions.

At the U.S.-controlled corner of Guantanamo, the day passed peacefully and without notice, although 14 captives were listed as hunger strikers. Five were being fed through tubes in their noses under military medical protocols for forced feedings.

A minefield and no-man's land separated the chants of Sheehan and her fellow protesters from the 45-square-mile U.S. Navy base.

"It's a normal work day here," reported U.S. Army Col. Lora Tucker by e-mail. It passed with "nothing special going on to mark the anniversary," she added. "We are just continuing our mission of safe, humane care of the detainees."

Not so in downtown Washington, not far from Congress, where about 100 demonstrators were arrested in a federal courthouse for waving signs and wearing T-shirts that said "Stop Torture" and "Shut Down Guantanamo."

They were led away in plastic handcuffs.

Earlier, hundreds of foes of U.S. detention policy fanned out on the steps of the Supreme Court, some in detainee-style jumpsuits and black hoods, others in mock military garb, and staged some political theater of their own in the frigid winter weather.

"Guantanamo has brought shame to our nation," Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International, told the crowd from a lectern entwined with barbed wire.

Behind him stood dozens of protesters, some with black tape across their mouths, others bearing the names of detainees. "There's no evidence that we have been made safer," said Cox, "but there is growing evidence that the moral authority of the United States has been severely diminished."


(Rosenberg reported from Miami, Clark from Washington.)


(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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