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Archive for January 19th, 2011

The Men Who Died

On the night of June 9, 2006, three detainees died in a maximum security section of the Guantánamo Bay Detention facility. The military‘s initial press releases reported not only that the detainees were found hanging in their cells but also that their actions were a conspiracy as part of ―asymmetrical warfare” against the United States. At the same time, the military ordered all media off the island and prevented all lawyers from visiting their clients.

Questions immediately arose about how three detainees, under constant supervision, were able to conspire effectively to commit coordinated suicides. The military soon announced that it was conducting an investigation, but the results were not published until more than two years later. In August 2008 a heavily redacted report of the investigation concluded that the detainees had hanged themselves in their cells and that one detainee, while walking the corridors that night, had announced, ―tonight‘s the night.

 

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 In the months prior to his death on June 10, 2006, Mani Shaman Turki Al-Habardi Al- Utaybi was cleared for transfer to his native Saudi Arabia.13 Because of delays by the Government, his lawyers were unable to tell him of the decision, and it is therefore unlikely he was ever informed of his pending release.14 According to Government press releases, Al-Utaybi was detained for the previous four years because of his involvement with Jama’at al Tablighi and other undisclosed groups.15 The Government characterized Jama’at al Tablighi as a “militant missionary group,” though in fact, Jama’at al Tablighi is a mainstream, worldwide religious community.

 Ali Abdullah Ahmed, a Yemeni national, was purportedly suspected by the U.S. Government of being a “mid- to high-level Al Qaeda operative” with access to “facilitators and senior membership,” particularly Al Qaeda coordinator Abu Zubaydeh. However, this claim was stated in a press release after Ahmed’s death, and cannot be corroborated by any available evidence. In 2005, his father obtained counsel for Ahmed and made a videotape asking his son to cooperate with those lawyers. The Government reported difficulty in identifying Ahmed, blocking any meeting with his attorneys prior to his death, so he never saw his father’s recorded plea. Nonetheless, there was a suit filed on Ahmed’s behalf in December of 2005.

 Yassar Talal Al-Zahrani was born on September 22, 1984, and was seventeen years old when he was arrested by anti-Taliban forces in late 2001.22 In press statements after his death, the Government accused Al-Zahrani of fighting on the front lines for the Taliban, facilitating weapons purchases for the Taliban, and participating in the prison uprising that occurred at Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan on November 25, 2001.23 Al-Zahrani did not have representation by counsel during his detention at Guantánamo.

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