Life is good. (In Gitmo)

Ice cream, baklava, cheese: Gitmo hunger strike ends

Ben Fox /AP

Former bin Laden bodyguard started protest in August 2005

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A Guantanamo prisoner who has been on a hunger strike for more than five years is occasionally eating solid food, but is still underweight and suffering from a medical condition likely caused by his protest, officials say in recently filed court documents.

Saudi prisoner Abdul Rahman Shalabi has begun to ease the detention center’s longest hunger strike by eating sporadically — and at times surreptitiously — though he is still classified as a hunger striker and is fed with a liquid nutrient mix through a nasal tube at the prison hospital, military officials said in documents filed Monday with a court in Washington.

Shalabi has been held at Guantanamo since January 2002 following his capture by Pakistani troops at the Afghanistan border. The U.S. government has said he is suspected of being a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, but he has not been charged. He denies any affiliation with al-Qaida and his attorneys have asked a judge to order that he be returned to his country.

Shalabi has begun to eat such things as pasta, bread, cake, seafood, baklava, cookies, peanut butter, cheese and ice cream, said Navy Capt. Monte Bible, who commands the Joint Medical Group at Guantanamo, in an affidavit that accompanies a government motion to prevent medical experts hired by the prisoner’s attorneys from being dispatched to examine and treat him at the U.S. base in Cuba.

Bible, who is also a doctor, said the prisoner has rejected more nutritional items from the prison menu as medical authorities try to get him to maintain and regain his weight.

“We have seen progress in his eating recently and I am confident that will continue,” Bible said.

Medical records included with the government’s motion show the prisoner’s weight was as low as 101 pounds — 67 percent of his ideal body weight — in September, though it increased slightly later in the month. Doctors have also diagnosed Shalabi with gastroparesis, a condition that significantly slows digestion. Bible said it was apparently caused by a weakening of his abdominal muscles as a result of the fast.