GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) – For many of the detainees of Guantanamo Bay’s Camp 4, the day begins before dawn.

The men, wearing flip-flops and clothes resembling doctors’ scrubs, shuffle out of their cells into the cool night air. A diminutive detainee in a white scull cap stands by a fence, clears his throat, tilts his head skyward and calls out the first prayer of the day.

The detainees gather as guards look on from a watchtower above the barracks-like prison blocks – a routine event in a routine day for the roughly 250 men at Guantanamo Bay. The days have turned into months, and months into years. By January, some of the men will have been locked up on this U.S. military base in Cuba for seven years.

The prisoners, detained indefinitely because of alleged links to the Taliban or al-Qaida, face Mecca, bow and then kneel in unison. After a few minutes it is over. The men shake hands formally, some drifting back to their cells to sleep, while others head for the bathroom or to wait for breakfast on benches.

The day warms quickly as the Caribbean sun rises.

Eventually, two soldiers in desert camouflage arrive on an ATV stacked with plastic foam containers, like the kind that restaurants use for takeout. A female soldier passes the hot meals, prepared according to Islamic guidelines, through rectangular openings in security gates.

Meal deliveries, trash collection, laundry, showers and other events mark the routines that knit together the hours of each day at Camp 4, where men deemed compliant are held.

Conversation between guards and detainees seems casual and common. A guard who looks scarcely out of high school stands by a fence, listening patiently as a middle-aged Arab detainee talks in broken English.

A few hundreds yards away are the bunker-like Camps 5 and 6, where life is harsher. The detainees spend most of their days alone in small, white cells, aligned in a maze of concrete and thick one-way glass. Guards wearing earpieces operate in synch like parts of a well-oiled machine and don protective face visors when they come close to detainees.

According the U.S. military, virtually all Camp 5 and 6 detainees are given some fresh air each day, sometimes in pairs, in exercise pens with chain-linked fencing on all four sides and on top, allowing access to natural light and social interaction.

But the days in Camps 5 and 6 are also marked by endless routine: showering, feeding and exercise, as well as the transportation of detainees one at a time to meetings with lawyers – if they have them – doctors, mental health workers and an occasional interview with an interrogator.

President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to close the detention center at Guantanamo, and is weighing what to do with the detainees.

The prisoners are all waiting to see what happens next, as they bide the time with routines.

AP-ES-12-05-08 1849EST


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