Locals ready for Gitmo lobbying

Two local women were to depart Sunday for Washington, D.C. Sister Paulette Schroeder of Tiffin and Josie Setzler of Fremont are to participate in demonstrations and lobbying for the release of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Organized by Witness Against Torture, the gathering which runs today through next Monday is to include activists fasting, meeting with political leaders, distributing literature and demonstrating in orange jumpsuits at public sites.

Schroeder said a core group of about 35 people is expected to stay for the entire week, while others will come for part of the observance. Those who are staying will be housed in a church where they will pray and reflect together. She said they will sleep on cushions from the church pews.

“We will start our fast (liquids only) on Monday after a meal together,” Schroeder said, “and we will break it on Jan. 13.”

A rally and procession are planned for Saturday, the date the first prisoners arrived in 2002 at the start of the “war on terror.”

According to www.witnesstorture.org, Witness Against Torture was formed in 2005 after 25 Americans went to Cuba in an effort to see the conditions there first-hand.

The activists were turned away, but they continued to organize and pressure the government to release the detainees or bring charges against them. That year, some prisoners went on a hunger strike to bring attention to their plight.

In 2007 and 2008, members of Witness Against Torture were arrested when they entered the Federal Court House in Washington, D.C.

The efforts of the group did help bring an end to abusive practices at the prison.

In June 2011, 14 activists stood in the gallery at the House of Representatives and urged the politicians to end indefinite detentions at Guantanamo. They were arrested after they spoke.

In 2012, 35 protesters were arrested, but charges later were dropped.

Three years ago, 86 of the prisoners were designated to be transferred to secure quarters in other countries or to trials in the U.S.; however, Congress did not appropriate funds for these transfers. The few who have been moved have been sent to countries that have agreed to admit them. A Washington Post article by Adam Goldman Dec. 31 stated eight detainees have been moved since August.

Most recently, three Uighur Muslims were transported from Guantanamo to Slovakia. Goldman’s article also said the military had determined the trio to have no connection to al-Qaida or the Taliban, but it had been difficult to find a country that would accept them. An ethnic group from China, the Uighurs likely would have been mistreated if they had returned to their home country.

Although President Obama promised to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, 155 prisoners remain in the facility, uncharged and untried.

An article posted on RT.com Friday said 76 prisoners have been approved for transfers out of Guantanamo.

The story quoted Clifford Sloan, special envoy for the closure of the prison. Although he expressed certainty the facility would close, he could not give a definite time frame.

Schroeder said lawyers at the prison do keep detainees updated on any actions in Congress. So far, a more extensive hunger strike, begun in February has aroused international calls to close the prison. News articles published Dec. 28 stated the military has decided not to report further information about the detainees’ hunger strike.

This will not be Setzler’s first trip to demand action on Guantanamo, but she did not respond to attempts to obtain comment.

Schroeder said she and Setzler intend to give a report about the trip when they return. Updates also are to be posted online at www.witnesstorture.org.