Activists disrupt House session to call for Guantanamo closing

A small number of anti-torture activists interrupted a session of the House of Representatives for several minutes Thursday, calling for the closure of the U.S. Army detention center in Guantanamo, Cuba, before being whisked away by authorities.

Thirteen members of the group Witness Against Torture were taken into custody and charged with unlawful conduct as they stood to read a three-paragraph statement as House members gathered for a vote on other legislation.

Matt Daloisio, a Catholic Worker from New York and spokesman for the group, told Catholic News Service that the activists pointed to provisions in the defense appropriations bill pending in Congress that would make permanent the Guantanamo prison.

The activists called the provisions a “crime” and said the bill grants the U.S. “powers over the lives of detained men fitting of a totalitarian state that uses the law itself as an instrument of tyranny.”

Twelve of the 13 were released from jail in the early morning hours of Friday and are scheduled to be arraigned July 12. One person, who took the name of a detainee, was not released until Friday afternoon and will be arraigned with the others.

The group has sought Guantanamo’s closing since 2005.

The protest occurred in the midst of a week of activities in Washington by several faith-based and political organizations opposed to torture as part of Torture Awareness Month.

Guantanamo continues to hold 171 men the U.S. suspects of having ties to terrorist groups.

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