A man from Yemen held at the US-run prison in Guantanamo for more than seven years without charge was found dead in an apparent suicide, the US military said on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old inmate was identified as Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih, also known as al-Hanashi. He had been held at Guantanamo since February 2002, US Southern Command said in a statement.
It was the fifth reported suicide at the controversial “war on terror” prison since the center opened at the remote US naval base in southeast Cuba in 2002, officials said.
“While conducting routine checks, the guards found the detainee unresponsive and not breathing,” US Southern Command said.
“Medical personnel were immediately summoned by the guard force. After extensive lifesaving measures had been exhausted, the detainee was pronounced dead by a physician,” it said.
The suspected suicide occurred “late Monday evening” and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service had opened an investigation to determine the cause and circumstances surrounding the death.
US Southern Command offered no other details of the incident.
A cultural adviser was providing assistance to the military to ensure the remains of the dead inmate were handled in a “religiously appropriate manner,” the statement said.
After an autopsy is carried out, the remains will be repatriated to Yemen, it said.
Salih was never charged by special military tribunals set up to try top terror suspects at Guantanamo.
The US military alleged that intelligence reports indicated he had fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan and that he had stayed at four guest houses associated with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He was captured in Mazar-e-Sharif and later transferred to Guantanamo.
Mohammed Albasha, spokesman of the embassy of Yemen in Washington, said that his country was “saddened” to learn the news.
An embassy representative was flying to Guantanamo and will work “closely with the US government” to quickly repatriate the body.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the family of the deceased,” Albasha said in a statement. “In addition, this incident demonstrates the urgency of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.”
Yemen “is looking forward to cooperate closely with the US administration to expedite [US] President [Barack] Obama’s decision to close Guantanamo,” Albasha said.
Meanwhile, a US federal judge on Tuesday gave the Obama administration 10 days to present evidence in the case of Afghan man who is challenging his detention at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
A judge at a Washington district court said the case of Mohammad Jawad was ready to proceed, and set a June 19 date for a hearing.
“This case has been so thoroughly examined that it may be the one and only case not to be so difficult. This case is ready to go,” Judge Ellen Huvelle said.
The Obama administration faces a series of legal political hurdles in its efforts to close the base, with strong opposition against releasing detainees into the US.
Now the US government has been given a June 12 deadline to present supporting evidence in the case, one of a handful from Guantanamo that are forging ahead.
Jawad is thought to be between 21 and 23 years old, and has been held at Guantanamo for almost seven years, accused of throwing a grenade against a US military vehicle in Kabul in 2002.