Guantanamo prisoners tune in for Obama's speech on their fate

MIAMI Thu May 23, 2013 8:17pm EDT

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MIAMI (Reuters) - Among those tuning in to President Barack Obama's national security speech on Thursday were some prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, who rely on television broadcasts and newspapers for hints about their fate.

"Detainees follow all coverage of Guantanamo closely, including today's speech, and the post-speech commentary, analysis and editorials," said Navy Captain Robert Durand, a spokesman for the Guantanamo detention operation.

"There is interest and discussion, but no discernible reaction," he said.

The camp holds 166 prisoners, most of whom have been held without charges for more than a decade. About 100 prisoners are on a hunger strike and dozens are being force-fed to keep them alive.

In a speech televised from Washington, Obama announced some steps toward meeting his goal of closing the detention camp. He lifted a moratorium on prisoner transfers to Yemen and called on Congress to end restrictions on other transfers.

Durand did not specify how many detainees had watched the speech. He said about two dozen had unrestricted access to television in communal settings and many others held in single cells were allowed to watch live TV during certain hours, including programming in Arabic, Farsi, English, Russian, Spanish and other languages.

They also read about Guantanamo in newspapers, which usually arrive at the remote camp in eastern Cuba within a week of publication, Durand said.

In March, a U.S. Marine Corps general said Obama's failure to mention Guantanamo during his January inaugural speech or his February State of the Union speech had contributed to a sense of abandonment fueling a hunger strike at the base.

(Editing by Alistair Bell and Lisa Shumaker)

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