14 detainees on stretchers arrive at Cuban prison

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- Fourteen battle-scarred detainees from the war in Afghanistan arrived on stretchers at this U.S. base Monday as new questions arose about the treatment and legal status of its inmates.

In Los Angeles, a federal judge agreed to hear a petition from U.S. civil rights advocates, including former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, challenging the detentions of the al-Qaida and Taliban fighters at the Navy base in Guantanamo, Cuba.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair sought to defuse press allegations of torture with a report that three British detainees have no complaints about their treatment at the remote U.S. outpost.

The Netherlands demanded the United States recognize the detainees as prisoners of war with rights under the Geneva Conventions.

In the fight against terrorism "we need to uphold our norms and values," said Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Jozias van Aartsen. "That applies to prisoners, too."

The military C-141 cargo plane that arrived Monday was the sixth flight bringing detainees from the U.S. base at Kandahar in Afghanistan. One by one, the 14 prisoners were carried from the aircraft on stretchers by four Marines in yellow latex gloves and turquoise surgical masks.

Restraints needed

The Marines lowered the stretchers to the ground and seemed to frisk the captives before carrying them to a bus. The detainees wore blacked-out goggles and orange jumpsuits, and appeared to have their arms strapped to their bodies.

"They were restrained in a manner appropriate, in a way that would not aggravate their medical conditions," said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Brendan McPherson.

U.S. officials say the restraints are needed because some captives have threatened to kill American guards.

McPherson said all the new arrivals were suffering war wounds but were in stable condition following postoperative orthopedic care at the Kandahar base and more medical attention during the 8,000-mile flight.

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