Saudi prisoner kills self at Guantanamo, U.S. says

  • World
  • Thursday, 31 May 2007

By Jane Sutton

MIAMI (Reuters) - A Saudi Arabian prisoner died of an apparent suicide at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base on Wednesday, the U.S. military said. 

"The detainee was found unresponsive and not breathing in his cell by guards. The detainee was pronounced dead by a physician after all lifesaving measures had been exhausted," the U.S. Southern Command in Miami said in a statement. 

The military did not indicate how the prisoner died. 

He is the fourth detainee to die of apparent suicide at the detention camp, which opened in January 2002 and holds about 380 foreign terrorist suspects on the U.S. naval base in southeastern Cuba. 

Three other prisoners -- two Saudis and a Yemeni -- hanged themselves with clothing and bedding in their cells last June and their deaths are still under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. 

"The remains of the deceased detainee are being treated with the utmost respect. A cultural advisor is assisting the Joint Task Force to ensure that the remains are handled in a culturally sensitive and religiously appropriate manner," the Southern Command said. 

It said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service had begun an investigation. 

The latest death of a prisoner comes eight days after a new commander took over the military task force that runs the controversial five-year-old detention center. 

Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby took over command of the prison camp last week, replacing Rear Adm. Harry Harris, who was new to the job when the previous suicides took place last year. 

The United States has faced growing criticism over its indefinite detention at Guantanamo of men it considers "unlawful enemy combatants" not entitled to the protections granted prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. 

It opened the prison camp shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks that killed 3,000 people, and says the prison is needed to prevent dangerous al Qaeda and Taliban fighters from returning to the battlefield, and to extract information that could help prevent future attacks. 

Human rights activists, who have long urged Washington to close the Guantanamo prison operation, denounced the earlier deaths as a sign of desolation while the U.S. military characterized them as acts of "asymmetrical warfare" in the war on terrorism. 

A military tribunal was scheduled to convene on Monday at Guantanamo to arraign two prisoners on war crimes. The earlier suicides also occurred days before a war crimes tribunal was to convene. 

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