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Navy nurse faces expulsion after refusing to force feed Gitmo detainees

Navy nurse faces expulsion after refusing to force feed Gitmo detainees
A Navy nurse who refused to force feed hunger-striking Guantanamo detainees over the summer, once threatened with court-martial, could now lose his career.

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The nurse, a Navy lieutenant who has never been publicly identified, refused to force feed hunger strikers shortly before July 4 at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay prison complex. The decision reportedly followed months of him carrying out the painful procedure.

A Navy commander on Monday said he asked the board to determine whether the nurse should be allowed to stay in the US Navy.

“I can tell you right now that, after reviewing the investigation that was conducted in Guantánamo, I recommended that the officer be required to show cause for retention in the Navy. I chose not to do the court-martial route,” the nurse’s commander, Navy Capt. Maureen Pennington, told the Miami Herald.

It has been noted that a Board Inquiry, or administrative review, can keep details of the incident secret. A military trial, however, would have brought up questions about the military’s hunger strike policy and a debate about the medical ethics over force feeding.

Pennington is the commanding officer for the nurse – one of more than 100 nurses from the Naval Health Clinic New England.

If the nurse is fired, any pension benefits will be forfeited.

“It’s kind of out of my hands now; ultimately the Secretary of the Navy will have the final say on this,” Pennington said. “The review, which could last about nine months, entitles the nurse to get an attorney and call witnesses to a closed hearing to argue why he should be allowed to remain in the service.”

READ MORE: Is it necessary to torture me?’ Gitmo prisoner demands 'civilized' force-feeding

The incident was first revealed during a call between a hunger-striking prisoner, Abu Wael Dhiab, and his lawyer, Cori Crider from the London-based legal defense group Reprieve.

Dhiab described how the nurse abruptly refused to force feed the prisoners and disappeared from detention center duty.

Crider called the nurse the first known US military conscientious objector in the 18-month-long hunger strike.

According to the Miami Herald, Crider said Dhiab quoted the nurse as announcing: “I have come to the decision that I refuse to participate in this criminal act.”

Dhiab, a Syrian who was cleared for transfer from Guantanamo in 2010, has been hunger striking to protest his continued detention and is challenging the force feeding policy in federal court.

At the height of the hunger strike campaign, 100 detainees refused to eat, according to the US military –and at one point 46 detainees were treated with force feeding tubes.

READ MORE: Painful force-feeding procedure caused Gitmo detainee to cough up blood

A leaked document of the military’s standard operating procedures for force feeding detainees was also leaked, and US rapper Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) posted a video on YouTube experiencing the procedure.