Gitmo detainee buried after body cross-examined [Archives:2006/958/Front Page]

June 26 2006

By: Nadia Al-Sakkaf
The body of Salah Addin Al-Salami, the Yemeni detainee said to have committed suicide at Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, was handed over to his family after their demand to cross-examine and identify the cause of death was met.

SANA'A, June 25 ) The body of Salah Addin Ali Ahmed Al-Salami finally saw peace yesterday in his hometown, Al-Mibra'a village in Houban-Taiz. However, it seems that his family and lawyers won't find peace until the truth behind his death is revealed. U.S. authorities issued a death certificate stating that Al-Salami hung himself, which Al-Salami's family denied, demanding a cross-examination.

Approximately three hundred people gathered at Al-Shuhada (Martyrs) Mosque to pray for the deceased before his family transported his body to Taiz for burial. Sheikh Ihsan Al-Rubie of Al-Nour Mosque in Sana'a explained that in Islam, if the deceased is proven to have killed himself or herself, there should be no prayer ceremony.

Apparently, Al-Salami's family and friends don't accept the claim that he committed suicide. “U.S. soldiers killed my son!” his father Ali Abdullah repeated. However, this has yet to be proven by U.S. doctors assigned to examine Al-Salami's body and decide the cause of death in their report, said to be produced on June 30.

On another front, Dr. Patrice Mangin, head of the five-member medical delegation that volunteered to cross-examine the body, said in a conference organized by the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms (HOOD) last Thursday that the deceased's throat is missing and the delegation will need to request it from U.S. authorities in order to clarify if Al-Salami hung himself or was killed.

“However, other parts were removed to preserve the body from rotting and it's a standard medical procedure,” Mangin said. After giving the medical team a chance to examine Al-Salami's body at the Sana'a Military Hospital, Yemeni authorities handed it over to his father for burial.

A French professor at Switzerland's Institut universitaire de Medecine Legale, Mangin and the other team doctors currently are in Saudi Arabia where they went after Yemen to inspect the other two bodies. Samples taken from all the bodies will be examined in Switzerland to try to identify the cause of death. The Geneva-based Al-Karama for Human Rights is sponsoring the investigation.

Abdulwahab Al-Humayqani, Al-Karama representative in Yemen, said HOOD approached the organization to sponsor a medical team to come to Yemen and re-examine the body. However, the medical delegation said that they must await the U.S. report, especially since Al-Salami's throat is missing. This angered Al-Salami's father, who stormed out of the room, accusing, “The Europeans follow the Americans!”

Doctors also said they'll need to examine the bed sheets – the alleged murder weapon – and they'll need to consult with the doctors who performed the autopsy in the U.S. before finalizing their report.

In an statement earlier last week, Najeeb Ghanem, former Minister of Health and head of Parliament's Health and Population Committee, declared that Al-Salami's body was emptied of all that could provide information about his death, including his blood vessels, bowels, brain, heart and liver, which he alleged U.S. specialists intentionally removed.

However, “The deceased detainees' remains have been treated with the utmost respect. A cultural advisor has assisted Joint Task Force Guantanamo to ensure that the remains are handled in a culturally and religiously appropriate manner,” the Pentagon said in a statement regarding the issue.

In a statement to the Yemen Times, lawyer and HOOD member Ahmad Arman, who has taken up the Guantanamo detainee's case, said they soon will organize a sit-in in front of the Yemeni Parliament for the detainees' families and human rights activists. “This sit-in is to exert pressure on the Yemeni government to provide solutions for the many Yemenis detained at Guantanamo and their families,” he explained.

Lawyer and former Member of Parliament Mohammed Nagi Alaw said his organization, HOOD, is attempting an international probe into the case and other cases to pressure the U.S. Administration to close Guantanamo and other such detainments. He also pointed out that a large number of Yemenis are in various detainments both inside and outside the U.S., including Abdulrahim Al-Nashri, Ramzi bin Al-Shaibah and Yasser Shaqiq.

U.S. authorities transported the three detainees' remains from the Navy base in southeastern Cuba to Yemen and Saudi Arabia on a commercial chartered jet, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Department of Defense spokesman. Al-Salami, 28, returned to his native Yemen, while Mani Shaman Turki Al-Habardi, 30, and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, 21, were sent to Saudi Arabia.

According to the same authorities, the men hanged themselves with clothes and bed sheets in maximum-security cells on Saturday, June 10, making them the first detainees to die at the camp since it opened in January 2002. They died inside their steel mesh cells at the detention center, where the U.S. holds some 460 men on suspicion of links to Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Interestingly, Cage Prisoners Organization confirmed that former Guantanamo detainees, including nine British nationals released from the camp, have heaped scorn on allegations that the three Guantanamo deaths were suicides, claiming that they're almost certainly accidental killings caused by excessive force by U.S. guards. The group is a human rights organization existing solely to raise awareness of the plight of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other detainees held as part of the War on Terror.

On the same front, Amnesty International issued a press release urging immediate action regarding the Guantanamo Bay detention center. “This has been a tragedy waiting to happen. A full independent investigation is a matter of absolute urgency, particularly in light of statements from high-ranking members of the U.S. military and government, which risk undermining the investigation launched by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service,” said Rob Freer, Amnesty International's researcher on the U.S.