Military denies media access to transfer of detainees on Guantanamo to new facility

Saturday, April 27th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) _ Hundreds of detainees in the war on terrorism may soon be moved from their makeshift prison to a new $16.4 million facility, but the U.S. military, citing security concerns, does not want the outside world to see.

Military spokesman Maj. James Bell confirmed Saturday that construction has finished on the new 408-cell seaside detention center, Camp Delta, but the military has denied media requests to view the transfer of 300 suspected al-Qaida and Taliban fighters over a distance of a few miles to the new camp.

``The policy is that we will not comment on the movement of detainees _ period _ until any movement has taken place,'' Maj. Lee Reynolds said Friday without elaborating.

Another base spokesman, Navy Lt. William Breyfogle said the policy is ``based on guidance from higher command,'' but he did not elaborate.

The new camp will give detainees metal beds with mats, flush toilets, wash basins and exercise areas. In Camp X-ray, detainees have foam pads on a concrete floor and must be led out of their cells to use portable toilets or showers.

The opening of the new camp on Cuba's southeast coast, originally set for April 12, has been delayed because of last-minute changes. The new facility could eventually be expanded to have more than 2,000 cells.

Breyfogle said he had ``no information of any detainee movement.''

Red Cross workers who visited detainees in Camp X-ray Friday night said there were no signs indicating a move was about to happen.

Camera crews under military escort were allowed to film the outside of Camp Delta as late as Thursday. Construction workers and soldiers, but no detainees, were inside.

Journalists also were allowed to view and photograph detainees Thursday at the temporary facility, Camp X-ray, from several yards away.

Earlier this month, the military withdrew media access to a field hospital where detainees receive medical care. Previously, journalists were allowed to routinely tour the compound.