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Protests Mark Guantanamo Anniversary


Human rights groups held demonstrations in the United States and elsewhere Thursday to protest the detention of terrorism suspects at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This week marks five years since the detention center opened. VOA's Sean Maroney reports from Washington.

Hundreds of protesters packed the sidewalk at the foot of the U.S. Supreme Court, demanding that the United States close its Guantanamo Bay prison shouting "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it now? Now!" and in Spanish "Que queremos? Justicia! Cuando? Ahora!"

The prison opened five years ago in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and after the start of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials say the prison's purpose is to hold and question enemy combatants as part of the war on terror.

However, of the nearly 800 detainees the center has held, only 10 have faced charges.

Amnesty International's Larry Cox told the crowd the United States cannot continue to detain people indefinitely. "There's no evidence that we have been made safer. But there is growing evidence, every single day,- that the U.S. government's moral authority and its ability to advance human rights have been severely diminished," he said.

Gitanjali Gutierrez, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, has visited the prison and talked to its inmates. "I stand here as one of few civilian individuals who has been able to go to Guantanamo and sit across a table with a man who is shackled to the floor, who's been held for five years and has had very little contact with his family. Some of us have had to tell men about the death of their parents over these five years, about the birth of children that they have not seen and in some cases, about the death of a child," he said.

In a separate protest, authorities arrested nearly 100 protesters inside a Washington federal courthouse. The protesters wore orange jumpsuits such as those worn by Guantanamo detainees and demanded the release of the prisoners.

Other small protests against the U.S. detention center took place in Australia, Cuba and Britain.