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Father of Guantanamo 'suicide' prisoner says son had bruises

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June 19, 2006


Dubai. The father of Yasser Al-Zahrani, one of the two Saudis who died earlier this month in Guantanamo Bay prison, dismissed Washington's claims that his son had committed suicide. He claimed there were bruises on his son's body, media reports said Monday.

"There are marks on Yasser's body that show that he was beaten. This is in spite of the fact that 20 days have passed since his death and the body had undergone reconditioning," Brig. Talal Abdullah Al-Zahrani said in remarks carried by the Saudi newspaper Arab News.

Al-Zahrani said he had seen part of Yasser's body, including his head, face and chest, at Shumaisy Hospital.

US authorities returned Yasser's body and that of Saudi Manie Shaman Al-Utaibi to Riyadh Saturday after conducting post mortems. Yasser's family has rejected the US post mortem report, which claims he had committed suicide, and called for another post mortem by a neutral agency.

Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki told Arab News that doctors are currently performing an autopsy on the two bodies to identify the cause of death.

"This is a regular procedure in such cases," he pointed out.

Al-Zahrani hoped that he would receive the results of the autopsy within a couple of days.

"After that we will take Yasser's body to Madinah to bury him there," he said.

He emphasised that the result of the Saudi autopsy would not change his conviction that the American authorities strangled his son.

"My son was a strong believer and suicide is against the teachings of Islam. He had memorised the Holy Koran and the letters we received from him while he was in Guantanamo indicate that his faith was strong. In fact, he was looking forward to a reunion with his family," he said.

He also pointed out that it was difficult for a Guantanamo prisoner to commit suicide as the cells at the prison are under thorough surveillance and movements are monitored by cameras.

The bodies of Al-Utaibi, Al-Zahrani and another Yemeni prisoner, Ali Abdullah Ahmed, were found dead in their cells in Guantanamo on June 10.

US authorities say the men hanged themselves with clothes and bed-sheets, making them the first prisoners to die at the camp since it opened in 2002 at the US naval base in Cuba.

The men's families, however, have questioned the circumstances of their deaths, saying that suicide in an offence against Islam.

The US currently holds about 460 detainees at the Guantanamo prison, most of them without charges. Ten have been charged with crimes.

Washington says the prison is needed to prevent dangerous Al Qaeda and Taliban figures from returning to the battlefield and to extract information that may help prevent future attacks.

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