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Guantánamo suicide attempt reported

Seattle Times
by Carol J. Williams
December 5, 2007

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — Despite sweeping measures to prevent suicides among the 305 prisoners here, a detainee slashed his throat with a sharpened fingernail in a shower recently and could have bled to death if guards hadn't rushed to his aid, officers disclosed Tuesday.

The November incident at the top-security Camp 6 prison was one of dozens known to have taken place since prisoners were first brought here in early 2002.

Zachary Katznelson, of the rights group Reprieve, said he was one of two lawyers representing the prisoner and identified him as an Algerian who has been held at Guantánamo without charges for nearly six years. The detainee was to meet with one of his lawyers for the first time this week. Katznelson said he could not release the man's name without his consent.

The prisoner was given two stitches in his neck at the detention hospital, then confined to the psychological ward for a week after the incident, a medical officer said.

Since three suicides in June last year and one in May, all by hanging, bed linens have been collected each morning to deprive the detainees of any means of making ligatures. Anyone suspected of trying to hurt himself is stripped of all bedding and outfitted in a green quilted "suicide smock" that attaches by Velcro and cannot be shredded.

But little can be done to stop those most determined to hurt themselves, conceded the senior medical officer.

Majid Khan, a former Baltimore resident and alleged affiliate of Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, used his teeth to sever a vein in his wrist shortly after his transfer last year to Guantánamo from a secret CIA prison abroad. He remains in detention.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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