Lawyers: Guantanamo prisoner on hunger strike 'gravely sick'

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MIAMI (AP) — Lawyers for a hunger-striking prisoner at Guantanamo whose weight has dropped to about 74 pounds (34 kilograms) said Friday that his life is in danger and he should be released immediately, challenging a government assessment that the man is in stable condition.

Tariq Ba Odah, a Yemeni held more than 13 years without charge, is at just 56 percent of his ideal body weight and meets criteria for release of "gravely sick or wounded" prisoners under international law, attorneys said in a filing to a federal court in Washington.

His lawyers, from the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, submitted reports from three medical experts expressing alarm at his continued weight loss despite the fact that he is force-fed liquid nutrients on the U.S. base at Guantanamo, Cuba.

"Mr. Ba Odah is gravely and chronically ill from malnutrition, which will continue to proceed on a dangerous course, if acute injury or sickness does not overwhelm him first," lead attorneys Omar Farah and Baher Azmy wrote.

U.S. officials have said Ba Odah can be released but not to his native Yemen, due to political instability there, and he must wait for resettlement in another country. He was cleared for release in 2009 and is one of about 50 detainees at Guantanamo who are awaiting transfer.

Ba Odah, who records show is about 37, has been detained as a suspected affiliate of al-Qaida since January 2002. He has been on hunger strike since early 2007, dropping from 133 pounds (60 kilograms).

The chief medical officer at the main prison at Guantanamo said in an affidavit last month that Ba Odah was "clinically stable though his weight is certainly at a very low and dangerous point."

Justice Department lawyers have argued that he does not qualify for immediate release under the Geneva Conventions because his injuries are self-inflicted. The government also says releasing him would encourage other prisoners to launch hunger strikes.

The U.S. holds 116 prisoners at Guantanamo, and the military no longer discloses how many are on hunger strike.

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