Were Two Prisoners Killed at Guantánamo in 2007 and 2009?

My friend and colleague Jeff Kaye, a full-time psychologist who somehow also finds time to conduct research into Guantánamo and America’s post-9/11 torture program, had a fascinating — and disturbing — article published last week on Truthout, in which, after stumbling upon the autopsy reports of two prisoners who died at Guantánamo in 2007 and 2009, reportedly by committing suicide, he “found irregularities, unanswered questions, and startling new facts the government has withheld from the public for years,” as he explained in a follow-up article on his blog, Invictus.

Summing up the core of his findings, he added, “For instance, one detainee, Abdul Rahman al-Amri, was found hanged with his hands tied behind his back. The other deceased prisoner, Mohammad al-Hanashi, was said to have strangled himself to death with a type of underwear not used by detainees at the time.”

I’m cross-posting the article below, as I believe Jeff has indeed exposed some previously unexplored, and genuinely troubling “irregularities, unanswered questions, and startling new facts” regarding these two deaths, which have long troubled me as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Relatives of Disputed Guantánamo Suicides Speak Out As Families Appeal in US Court

Late on Sunday evening, I publicized a conference call taking place on Monday to discuss an appeal in a court case brought by the families of two of the three men who died at Guantánamo on June 9, 2006 under mysterious circumstances. The supposed triple suicide of the three men — Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, Salah Ahmed al-Salami and Mani Shaman al-Utaybi — was questioned when it took place five years ago by former prisoners who knew the men, as I reported in an article last year, Murders at Guantánamo: The Cover-Up Continues, and the official story was challenged in the most spectacular manner last January, when law professor and Harper’s columnist Scott Horton drew on the testimony of four soldiers who were manning the watch towers on the night in question. Their accounts indicate that the men could not have committed suicide, as alleged, and that there must be some other explanation — possibly that they were killed either by accident or design during torture sessions at a remote facility, identified as “Camp No,” located outside the main perimeter fence of the Guantánamo prison.

Despite the gravity of these allegations, there has been no independent investigation into the soldiers’ claims, as aired in Harper’s Magazine, and the families’ attempts to have their questions about the deaths answered in a US court have also been thwarted. Although the families of Yasser al-Zahrani and Salah al-Salami launched a case in January 2009, and later resubmitted it with new material from the Harper’s story, a judge in the District Court in Washington D.C. — Judge Ellen Huvelle — declared last September that she was unable to proceed with the case, because existing legislation (the Military Commissions Act) prevented a court from “‘hear[ing] or consider[ing] any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement’ of an alien detained and determined to be an enemy combatant,” and also because the courts have accepted the government’s arguments that judges must not intrude on national security issues. Read the rest of this entry »

Teleconference: Five Years After Disputed “Suicides” at Guantánamo, Father of Dead Man Appeals Court’s Refusal to Consider His Case

Friday June 10, as I explained in an article at the time, marked the fifth anniversary of the disputed triple suicide of three prisoners at Guantánamo, and on Monday June 13, to mark the filing of new legal documents as part of the families’ attempts to secure justice, lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York are holding a telephone conference, open to the public, with the participation of Scott Horton and Talal al-Zahrani.

Scott Horton is the lawyer and Harper’s columnist who, last January, wrote a shocking exposé about the alleged suicides, revealing contrary accounts from soldiers who had been present at the time, and Talal al-Zahrani is the father of Yasser al-Zahrani, one of the three prisoners who died — and was himself an official in the Saudi Interior Ministry. As I explained in an article on Saturday, WikiLeaks and the 22 Children of Guantánamo, Yasser al-Zahrani was just 17 years old when he was seized in Afghanistan and taken to Guantánamo.

Yasser al-Zahrani’s family, and the family of Salah al-Salami, another of the three men who died, have been seeking justice in the US courts since January 2009, but lost their case last September, in the District Court in Washington D.C., when Judge Ellen Huvelle found her hands tied. She wrote that “the section of the MCA [Military Commissions Act] removing from the courts ‘jurisdiction to hear or consider any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement’ of an alien detained and determined to be an enemy combatant by the United States is still valid law.” Read the rest of this entry »

On the 5th Anniversary of the Disputed Guantánamo “Suicides,” Jeff Kaye Defends Scott Horton

Back in January 2010, law professor and Harper’s columnist Scott Horton had a fascinating and alarming article published in Harper’s Magazine (it was online in January, and in the March print edition), entitled, “The Guantánamo ‘Suicides’: A Camp Delta Sergeant Blows the Whistle,” a devastating analysis of three supposed suicides at Guantánamo on the night of June 9, 2006. The official report into the deaths had been previously condemned by researchers at the Seton Hall Law School, who had concluded that it contained more holes than verifiable content, but Horton’s exposé ratcheted up the interest, as it drew on the testimony of a number of military personnel who were not only present on the night in question, but were manning the watch towers, which, of course, provide a unique overview of life in Guantánamo and the coming and going of prisoners and military personnel.

I won’t run through the whole article here — and its suggestion that the men were killed, either by accident or design, and probably during torture sessions in “Camp No,” a separate facility outside the main perimeter fence — as I recommend anyone who has not read it to do so (and also to read my own commentary on it, and my follow-up here), but I will say that, having spoken to the lead soldier responsible for questioning the official story, Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, I was convinced that he had no reason to fabricate a story that could only damage his career, and was particularly impressed by the description of how “he could not forget what he had seen at Guantánamo. When Barack Obama became president, [he] decided to act. ‘I thought that with a new administration and new ideas I could actually come forward,’ he said. ‘It was haunting me.’” And as he told me last year, he felt “physically sick” after holding onto his story for three years. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo Suicide Was Severely Mentally Ill, And Was A Case of Mistaken Identity

There is cruelty. There is stupidity. And far too often, when it comes to the activities of the US government in the “War on Terror,” there is both.

In my previous article, The Only Way Out of Guantánamo Is In a Coffin, I wrote about the death at Guantánamo — reportedly as a result of committing suicide — of an Afghan prisoner identified by the US military as Inayatullah, who was the penultimate prisoner to be brought to the prison in Cuba, arriving in September 2007.

Noting that the US military had recycled information from a press release issued when he arrived at Guantánamo, describing him as “an admitted planner for Al-Qaeda terrorist operations,” but dropping a claim that he had “admitted that he was the Al-Qaeda Emir of Zahedan, Iran,” I suggested that he had never, in fact, been appraised adequately since his arrival, as no tribunal had been held to assess him as an “enemy combatant,” and noted, moreover, that his file was one of 14 missing from the classified military assessments of 765 prisoners, which were recently released by WikiLeaks.

In addition, I lamented that it was “unlikely that the evident truth about Obama’s Guantánamo — that the only way out is by dying — will shift public option either at home or abroad,” and also noted that, “whatever Inayatullah’s alleged crimes, it was inappropriate that, because of President Obama’s embrace of his predecessor’s detention policies, he died neither as a convicted criminal serving a prison sentence for activities related to terrorism, nor as a prisoner of war protected by the Geneva Conventions.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Only Way Out of Guantánamo Is In a Coffin

Despite sweeping into office promising to close Guantánamo, President Obama now oversees a prison that may well stay open forever, from which the only exit route is in a coffin.

The last living prisoner to be released from Guantánamo was Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed, an Algerian who was repatriated against his will in January. Since then, an Afghan prisoner, Awal Gul, died in February after taking exercise, and on Wednesday the US military announced that another Afghan prisoner, Inayatullah, who was 37 years old, “died of an apparent suicide,” early on the morning of May 18.

A US Southern Command news release explained, “While conducting routine checks, the guards found the detainee unresponsive and not breathing. The guards immediately initiated CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation] and also summoned medical personnel to the scene. After extensive lifesaving measures had been exhausted, the detainee was pronounced dead by a physician.”

Later, a Guantánamo spokesperson, Army Lt. Col. Tanya Bradsher, said that Inayatullah was discovered “hanging from his neck by what appear[ed] to be bed linen” in one of the prison’s recreation yards — a scenario that surely raises the question of how, in a prison where the detainees are closely monitored all the time, he was allowed to spend enough time unmonitored in a recreation yard to be able to kill himself. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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