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Another Death at Guantánamo

Obama signing order to close Guantánamo, January 21, 2009

[Doug Mills/The New York Times]

An Afghan prisoner at Guantánamo died yesterday, apparently by suicide. In the NYT At War blog site, Andrew Lehren writes unquestioningly today that the detainee

had worked as a courier for senior officials for Al Qaeda in Pakistan, a job similar to those who ultimately were instrumental in leading the United States military to tracking down Osama bin Laden, according to government documents.

The United States government, in 2009 federal court filings, portrayed him as a courier who worked with senior Qaeda officials in Pakistan and Iran, delivering correspondence and supplies. He also helped guide soldiers into Afghanistan.

Lehrer provides no substantiation of these accusations. Do we really believe whatever the government says about Guantánamo detainees? If the guy is so obviously guilty, why was he never charged with a crime? Fortunately, the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg provided a little more sanity.

Inayatullah, 37, was one of the last captives brought to the controversial camps in southeast Cuba by the Bush administration. He arrived in September 2007, and was described as an Al Qaeda emir in Iran who planned and directed the group’s terror operations.

His lawyer, Miami public defender Paul Raskind, countered that the man who died was never known as Inayatullah anywhere but in Guantánamo, never had a role in Al Qaeda and was in fact named Hajji Nassim and ran a cellphone shop in Iran near the Afghan border.

Rashkind also acknowledged that his client had a history of psychological problems that the military recognized at Guantánamo. “I have no doubt it was a suicide,” he said by telephone while traveling in St. Louis.

The Afghan’s mental health problems became so profound last year that Rashkind arranged to bring a civilian psychiatrist to the base to work with the man.

“This is really a sad mental health case … starting from childhood,” he said. At Guantánamo, “they treated him pretty humanely, I’d have to say.”

Legal sources familiar with the case added that the Afghan had spent long stretches in the psychiatric ward at Guantánamo and had previous episodes where he had tried to harm himself.

[snip]

Less is known about Inayatullah than most Guantanamo captives at this stage. Publicly released Information on him, aside from the report of his death, comes from a single Sept. 12, 2007 Pentagon press release that announced his arrival at Guantanamo as the alleged confessed al Qaeda “emir,” or chief, in Zahedan, in southeastern Iran, near the Pakistan-Afghan border.

The press release alleged he “collaborated with numerous senior al Qaeda leaders” and had a personal hand in “global terrorist efforts” — notably smuggling foreign fighters between Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq.

He was never charged with a crime and was never known to undergo a combatant status review tribunal at Guantanamo, a procedure designed by the Pentagon to evaluate whether he met the criteria for indefinite detention as an “enemy combatant,” a standard established early in the administration of President George W. Bush. …

His attorney, Rashkind, called his case “an outlier” in the prison camp processes, partly because he was brought there so late in the camps’ history and partly because of his mental health issues. He was never designated for trial nor for indefinite detention nor release, Rashkind said.

“To me this is a human tragedy,” said Rashkind, who has defended four Guantánamo captives. “I don’t think he belonged there at all.”

Was I dreaming or did Obama issue an order when he took office to close Guantánamo in order to “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism.”? Let’s see. According to this NYT article on January 22, 2009, it really happened.

What a disgrace!

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Categories: Law, Torture
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