Student joins in hunger strike for Guantanamo

Luke Beardsworth
Luke Beardsworth
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Preston student Luke Beardsworth may not realise it but he has more in common with Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle and ageing screen star Julie Christie than he thinks.

For the UCLan scholar is the latest person to join a string of celebrities who have endured an enforced hunger strike in support for prisoners at the infamous Guantánamo Bay Prison.

Comedian Frankie Boyle

Comedian Frankie Boyle

Luke, 22, who has just finished the second year of a journalism with creative writing degree, is spending a week without food to help rise awareness of the 166 inmates at the Cuban base.

The former Brownedge St Mary’s High School and Runshaw College student said: “I’m not eating for seven days in protest of the treatment of those in Guantánamo Bay. Over half have been cleared for release but are still denied it.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, though I’ve always been interested in peaceful forms of protesting.

“I’ll probably be drinking a lot of water, juice and milk over the week. I’ll be doing it on my own.

“I think it’ll be a real challenge for the first few days.”

Luke, from Bamber Bridge, said he had been surprised by the positive reaction from friends and added: “I’ve had a lot of support from friends, which is nice because I thought some of them would think it was pointless.

“I probably eat quite a lot usually and I definitely enjoy it.

“It will be hard watching people eat and knowing I’ve said I won’t.

“I read that it doesn’t take so much of a physical toll on the body but the mental toll can be tough because of all the images of food everywhere and the effort it takes to resist it all.”

Comedian Boyle started a hunger strike in solidarity with Guantánamo Bay prisoner Shaker Aamer, who has been striking for nearly 170 days.

He joined Aamer’s lawyer Clive Stafford Smith in the protest, which aimed to raise awareness of Guantánamo prisoners on hunger strike, some of whom have reportedly been force-fed.

Aamer is the last British resident imprisoned in Guantánamo, where he has been held without charge since 2002.

Around 100 of the 166 prisoners at the detention centre are still being classified as hunger strikers by the US army, down from a high of 106.