Guantanamo Bay force feeding for Ramadan, U.S. rejects calls to stop feedings

(CNN) -- The U.S. government on Wednesday refused to stop force-feeding prisoners at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during Ramadan.

In court papers rejecting a petition by detainees, the United States said the feedings provide "essential nutrition and medical care" and do not interfere with the detainees' religious fasting during Ramadan, the holy month that begins on the evening of July 8.

The Pentagon said the force-feedings will take place in the early morning and late evening to help detainees comply with Ramadan meal restrictions.

Shaker Aamer, Ahmed Belbacha, Nabil Hadjarab and Abu Wa'el Dhiab filed a lawsuit Sunday arguing that the feedings violate the Ramadan daily fast from dawn to sunset.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler had set a deadline of noon Wednesday for the government to respond.

Lt. Col Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the military has changed force-feeding times at Guantanamo during Ramadan for years, but that doing so "is an accommodation, not a right."

Of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo, 106 are on hunger strike, Breasseale said.

In its court filing, the U.S. Justice Department also denied claims that it was giving the drug Reglan to the detainees.

CNN's Josh Levs contributed to this report.

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