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U.S.: Dead Detainee Was of High Value

Thursday, May 31, 2007 11:11:53 AM
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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico(AP)


A Saudi Arabian detainee who apparently committed suicide at Guantanamo Bay had been held at the prison camp reserved for the least compliant and most "high-value" inmates, a U.S. military spokesman said Thursday.

The Saudi government identified the man who died Wednesday as Abdul Rahman Maadha al-Amry. A spokesman for the kingdom's Interior Ministry, Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, said it was too early to judge how al-Amry died.

The U.S. military has not confirmed the detainee's identity or explained how it arrived at the conclusion that he probably committed suicide.

"The actual cause of death is under investigation," Southern Command spokesman Jose Ruiz said by telephone from Miami on Thursday.

Ruiz said the man was held at the maximum-security Camp 5.

Guards at the U.S. Naval Base in southeast Cuba found the detainee unresponsive and not breathing in his cell Wednesday afternoon, the Southern Command announced Wednesday.

It would be the fourth suicide at Guantanamo since the prison camp opened in January 2002. On June 10, 2006, two Saudi detainees and one Yemeni hanged themselves with sheets.

Prisoners in Camp 5, which is similar to the highest-security U.S. prisons, are kept in individual, solid-wall cells and allowed outside for only two hours a day of recreation in an enclosed area.

Wells Dixon, a defense attorney who met with detainees at Camp 5 last month, said many showed signs of desperation.

"I can assure you that it is hell on earth," Dixon said. "You can see the despair on the faces of detainees. It's transparent."

Other critics said detainees are frustrated at being held indefinitely without charges.

"You have five and a half years of desperation there with no legal way out," said Michael Ratner, president of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents hundreds of Guantanamo detainees. "Sadly, it leads to people being so desperate they take their own lives."

Lawyer Julia Tarver Mason, whose firm represents eight Saudi detainees at Guantanamo, said the government so far has declined to tell her if the man who died was among her clients. There are about 80 detainees from Saudi Arabia held at Guantanamo.

"They are in the care of the United States government and that should mean that deaths should not occur," Mason said.

The death came as Guantanamo prepares to hold pretrial hearings for two detainees in military tribunals.

One of the detainees, Canadian Omar Khadr, fired his American attorneys on Wednesday, leaving him without defense counsel, his former U.S. military attorney told The Associated Press.

Khadr is still to be arraigned Monday. He and Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who also faces a hearing Monday, are among only three of the roughly 380 Guantanamo prisoners to be charged with a crime. The third, David Hicks, was convicted of aiding al-Qaida and returned to his native Australia.

Khadr was 15 when he was captured in Afghanistan during a firefight in which he allegedly killed a U.S. Army special forces soldier with a grenade.

"He doesn't trust American lawyers, and I don't particularly blame him," said U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, who was taken off the case Wednesday. "The United States is responsible for his interrogation and his treatment under a process that is patently unfair."

Many of the "enemy combatants" at the isolated prison camp have been held for more than five years. In most cases, the military accuses them of having links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.

The former commander of the detention facilities, Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris, described earlier suicides as acts of "asymmetric warfare" _ an effort to increase condemnation of the prison.

A cultural adviser was helping the military handle the remains. "The remains of the deceased detainee are being treated with the utmost respect," the military said.

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Associated Press writers Andrew O. Selsky and Ben Fox contributed to this story.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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