updated 10/3/2006 5:00:28 PM ET 2006-10-03T21:00:28

Offered a high-calorie diet and kept in their cells almost around the clock, many detainees at Guantanamo Bay are becoming fat.

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Meals totaling a whopping 4,200 calories per day are brought to their cells — U.S. government dietary guidelines recommend 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day for weight maintenance — and some inmates are eating everything on the menu.

One detainee has almost doubled in weight, to 410 pounds (186 kilograms), Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand, spokesman for the detention facilities, said Monday.

Human rights groups attribute the weight gain to lack of mobility in the detainees' small cells. They cite accounts of released detainees who complained of being allowed to exercise fewer than three times a week.

But Durand said detainees are simply served a wide variety of food and expected to choose what appeals to them.

"The detainees are advised that they are offered more food than necessary to provide choice and variety, and that consuming all the food they are offered will result in weight gain," he said.

Most of the prisoners were picked up in Afghanistan and other conflict zones and were slightly underweight when they arrived at the military prison in southeast Cuba. Since then, they've gained an average of 20 pounds (9 kilograms), and most are now "normal to mildly overweight or mildly obese," he said.

The meals include meats prepared according to Islamic guidelines, fresh bread and yogurt. With nearly all detainees fasting in the daytime during Ramadan, authorities have arranged for two separate meals — a post-sunset meal and a midnight meal — to be delivered after dark. Traditional desserts and honey are served during the Ramadan observances.

Calories at Guantanamo higher than other prisons
The calorie intake at Guantanamo is well above the norm for federal inmates in the United States — they receive about 2,900 calories a day, said U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokesman Michael Truman. He said weight gain in the civilian system does not appear widespread and that most inmates "keep themselves in pretty good shape."

Prisoners who are more compliant get more exercise time at the prison, which now holds about 460 detainees, some of them kept for more than four years on suspicion of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

The most compliant detainees get up to 12 hours of exercise time, with access to treadmills, stationary bikes and other exercise equipment, Durand said. Guantanamo officials say "compliancy" is gauged solely by whether a detainee follows detention center rules and avoids causing disturbances, and has nothing to do with whether he is cooperating with interrogators.

Citing prison rules, Guantanamo officials wouldn't disclose the identity of their heaviest detainee, but Durand said he now weighs 410 pounds (186 kilograms), and arrived in 2002 weighing 215 pounds (98 kilograms).

Conflicting accounts of exercise time
Durand said all prisoners, including those held at maximum-security Camp 5, are allowed at least two hours of daily recreation — the minimum called for by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

However, reporters who visited Camp 5 in September were told that the exercise time had been reduced to one hour after the suicides of three detainees in June. During that visit, a "high-value" detainee could be seen walking in circles around a 10-by-18-foot fenced-in "recreation yard."

The exercise time has since been increased to 90 minutes, the commander of the camp guards said, and there were plans to restore the two-hour exercise periods.

The conflicting accounts of prisoners' exercise time highlight a need for neutral monitors to examine conditions and report their findings, said Curt Goering, of Amnesty International USA.

"The army says one thing, camp commanders say one thing, and then there's this other information available," he said. "It's really important that someone independent makes that assessment."

A delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived at the prison last week for interviews with detainees. The humanitarian organization, which does not publicly release some findings as a condition of its access to prisoners, was hoping to get a first glimpse of 14 top alleged al-Qaida figures and other terror suspects previously locked up in CIA secret prisons.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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