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Latest Guantánamo prison camp suicide was 'indefinite detainee'

Bellingham Herald
by Carol Rosenberg
September 16, 2011

An Afghan man who was found hanging from a bedsheet at Guantánamo last month was held by the Pentagon as an “indefinite detainee” — an Obama administration designation originally conferred on 48 captives at the prison camps in Cuba.

Defense Department officials have not released the list of so-called indefinite detainees. Nor have they notified the men of their status as ineligible for either trial or release among the 171 captives currently held in Guantánamo.

But a Pentagon spokesman, Dave Oten, confirmed this week that the May 18 death of a captive known to his lawyers as Hajji Nassim and to the Defense Department as Inayatullah lowered the indefinite detainee tally.

“It’s a sad case, a very sad case,” said his Miami attorney Paul Rashkind on Tuesday. A federal public defender, Rashkind had been on the Afghan’s case for about a year. He said, though he had never been told of his client’s status as an indefinite detainee, he might have been able to persuade the government otherwise.

“We were hopeful that we would be able to complete a psychiatric profile of him and present that information to the government in the hopes they would release him,” said Rashkind.

The Pentagon had claimed that Inayatullah was an Al Qaeda emir in Iran who planned and directed the group’s terror operations. He got to Guantánamo in 2007, one of the last detainees sent there. Rashkind countered that the captive 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.

Guards discovered him early May 18 dangling from bed linen in a prison recreation yard in what the Southern Command in Miami described as a “suspected suicide.” Rashkind said his client had a history of psychological problems and spent long stretches in Guantánamo’s psychiatric ward.

The lawyer had several times obtained permission from administration officials to bring a private, civilian psychiatrist to the base to help with the case of the 37-year-old captive. Rashkind said had no doubts the death was a suicide.

In February, the military said Awal Gul, 48, another Afghan whose status was indefinite detention, collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack after working out on an exercise machine in a Camp 6 recreation yard. He had been held as a one-time Taliban official.

The remains of both men were repatriated within in days of their deaths for burial in Afghanistan. At the Southern Command, which supervises aspects of the detention center, Army Lt. Col. Darryl Wright said both deaths this year were still under investigation.

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