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Archive for Sunday, October 3, 2004

S. African archbishop joins play protesting Guantanamo policy

October 3, 2004

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— Moving from the pulpit to the stage, Desmond Tutu is appearing off-Broadway in a drama blasting the Bush administration's handling of Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The retired South African prelate and Nobel laureate appeared Saturday night at a tiny theater in lower Manhattan, playing a judge in "Guantanamo: Honor Bound To Defend Freedom." The play portrays the plight of British detainees at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

Tutu's engagement is limited to two performances; the second is this afternoon.

Standing onstage before a scene resembling holding pens at the detention camp, Tutu said he chose to appear in the play to highlight concerns about the treatment of the prisoners.

"I hope this will help to put this particular issue in the public arena unambiguously so (the American) people can say, 'Is this what we want to support?"' Tutu told reporters before the play began.

Weeks before the U.S. presidential election, Tutu is drawing attention to the treatment of hundreds of suspected terrorists being held by the United States. Last week, a Briton at Guantanamo said he was tortured and held in solitary confinement for almost two years by the American military -- a fate also alleged by other detainees.

The Pentagon says its policy is to treat all prisoners humanely.

Tutu, 73, retired from office as Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996 and was named archbishop emeritus shortly after. He is viewed as an authority on human rights, having spent decades challenging South Africa's apartheid regime, activism for which he won a Nobel Peace Prize.

Tutu compared the Pentagon's treatment of the Guantanamo prisoners to that of blacks under the racist apartheid regime.

"They are using the same kind of methods used under apartheid. For me, it's deja vu," he said.

Tutu noted that former South African president and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist by the ruling Afrikaners.

"Human rights are of universal validity or they are nothing," he said.

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