Protesters demand end to Guantanamo war camps

By Anita Snow The Associated Press

GUANTANAMO – Cindy Sheehan marched with the mothers of a Guantanamo prisoner, a New York firefighter killed on 9/11 and other peace activists yesterday to demand the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay be closed five years after the first terror suspects arrived.

The protest in Cuba came as demonstrators in Washington and London, as well as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, called for the prison’s closure.

“What I’ve read happens in this prison makes me sick to my stomach,” the 49-year-old Sheehan said outside the post where Cuban officials stopped the dozen protesters from entering the Cuban military territory to reach the U.S. base’s main gate.

“I’m calling for the cycle of violence to stop now, to close this prison,” she said, wearing a peace sign medallion around her neck.

Sheehan, who became a war protester after her 24-year-old son Casey died in Iraq in April 2004, joined the other women in fastening bouquets of yellow and pink wildflowers to the barbed-wire fence, as well as a bright pink cloth reading, “Women say NO to torture.”

The protesters had hoped to march down the lonely asphalt road past the Cuban mine fields dotted with scrub brush and cactus, but Cuban Lt. Col. Edilberto Rivera said all civilians were prohibited from the zone.

Zohra Zewawi, the mother of British detainee Omar Deghayes, traveled from the United Arab Emirates with another son, Taher Deghayes, to join the protest. She said her son had been tortured and blinded in one eye after he was imprisoned in September 2002 and still has not been charged.

Adele Welty, whose firefighter son Timothy was killed in the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack, called on Americans to contact Congress to demand the closure of the prison and fair trials for the detainees.

The protesters also included Asif Iqbal, a British Muslim who spent 2 and a half years at the prison. He expressed support for those still inside.

“Every day, every minute, they are in our thoughts,” the 25-year-old said.

Rick Mines, a 63-year-old agriculture economist from Rail Road Flat, Calif., made his own dramatic statement, appearing in an orange jumpsuit, black hood, goggles and headphones similar to what the terror suspects wore when they first arrived five years ago.