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Report: Guantanamo Bay detainees pick 'Fresh Prince' over Harry Potter

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Starring Will Smith (pictured here in a red jacket), "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" ran for six seasons on NBC.

"The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," the popular 1990s sitcom starring Will Smith, has supplanted Harry Potter books as a popular way for detainees at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay to pass the time, according to a newspaper report.

The Miami Herald reported demand among the 168 prisoners for J.K. Rowling's popular literary series about a boy wizard had fallen. But interest has surged in the TV series about Smith's street-savvy, wise-cracking character from West Philadelphia who tries to adjust to life with his affluent cousins in Southern California.


"I just ordered all six seasons," the Herald quoted a librarian named only as Milton as saying.

"They're over that (Harry Potter); it's been more than a year," the librarian, who the paper said was a civilian contractor for the Defense Department, told the Herald.

John Moore / Getty Images

President Obama's one-year deadline to close the facility has long passed as shutting it down has proven complicated and controversial.

The newspaper said the detention center had a multilingual collection of about 28,000 books and videos in Arabic, Pashto, English, French and other languages.

How I see America, from a former Gitmo prisoner

Many detainees apparently use the library's collection to help improve their English, the Herald said. The inmates appeared to favor reading novels that feature side-by-side translation, the newspaper said, and at least 10 copies of the Oxford English Dictionary had been ordered for the prisoners.

Rewards and incentives
The books and videos are used as incentives and rewards for good behavior, and to give detainees a way to pass the time.

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"The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" first aired on NBC on Sept. 10, 1990, and ran for six seasons.

According to the Herald, cooperative prisoners, who make up the majority of the detainees, can watch the show communally on flat-screen televisions bolted to the walls inside a plexiglass box almost around-the-clock.

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Detainees who are classified as maximum-security captives -- about 15 percent of the population -- are allowed to watch the show alone for up to an hour or two a day, the newspaper reported. A maximum-security detainee is given a solo cell and a recliner, from where he can view the show with one ankle shackled to a bolt in the floor, the Herald said.

Despite President Obama's vow to shut down Guantanamo Bay, the nation's most expensive prison is undergoing some costly new updates that would allow the facility to remain open for years. NBC's Michael Isikoff reports.

The prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay are from various countries around the world. Many of them were captured more than a decade ago after U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan in an effort to break up the al-Qaida terrorist network and its Taliban protectors following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The United States accuses the detainees of links to terrorism.

According to the Herald, past librarians at Guantanamo Bay have reported prisoner interest in President Barack Obama's political memoir, "The Audacity of Hope," and one attorney suggested to a convict that he read former President George W. Bush's "Decision Points."

Jan. 18, 2011: It has been two years since Saad Iqbal Madni left Guantanamo Bay, but the Islamic scholar has not recovered from the experience. "Muslim people not ready to forgive that ... I'm not going to forget that," he tells NBC News.

Point of friction
The prison facility has been a major point of friction between the United States and the Muslim world.

Allegations of torture have been common. A documentary by Doha-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera earlier this year said that children’s songs from the "Sesame Street" TV series had been used to "torture" detainees.

'I wake up screaming': A Guantanamo nightmare

Books by former Guantanamo interrogators, including ex-FBI agent Ali Soufan's "Black Banners" and former CIA agent Jose Rodriguez's "Hard Measures," have yet to be included in the library's collection, the Herald said.

Several former detainees at Guantanamo Bay, including Briton Moazzam Begg and Australian David Hicks, have written books about their experiences there, but it was unclear whether their books were available at the site's library.

Defense lawyers say Guantanamo court rigged to deliver death sentence

Obama campaigned for president in 2008 partly on a pledge that he would close the Guantanamo prison facility, but his failure so far to do so has earned the enmity of human-rights activists.

Nearly 800 detainees have been held at Guantanamo since the prison opened a decade ago, according to reports.

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