(WASHINGTON) — The Guantanamo detainee who died this weekend was a 32-year-old Yemeni who had been held at the U.S. detention camp in Cuba ever since it was established a decade ago in January 2002, and whom human rights activists called “the face of indefinite detention at Guantanamo.”
Joint Task Force Guantanamo identified the detainee as Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif from Yemen. His name had been withheld pending family notification of his passing.
Latif had been found unconscious and unresponsive in his cell on Saturday and was declared dead after what were characterized as “extensive lifesaving measures” were performed to revive him.
Investigators from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are looking at the circumstances surrounding his death. A release by JTF-Guantanamo said an autopsy had been conducted, but said the results and determining a cause of death “take time.”
Captured by Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan, Latif arrived at the newly established camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in January 2002 shortly after it had been established as Camp X-Ray. The facility was initially designed for the temporary detention of enemy combatants captured on the battlefields of the War on Terror, but eventually became the permanent detention facility for terrorism suspects.
Latif had pressed his legal status in U.S. civilian courts and reached the Supreme Court, where his case was rejected this past June. While he was alleged to have been an al Qaeda-trained fighter, the Department of Defense issued an opinion in 2004 that he was “not known to have participated in combatant/terrorist training.” Latif was recommended for transfer to his home country twice by the military panels set up to review the cases of detainees. However, those recommendations were never acted upon.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, a legal advocacy group that represents many of the detainees at Guantanamo, issued a statement Tuesday that said Latif was “innocent of any wrongdoing that would have justified his detention.”
“Adnan Latif is the human face of indefinite detention at Guantanamo,” said the statement, “a policy President Obama now owns.”
“President Obama’s Justice Department knew he was innocent but appealed a district court order directing his release rather than send him home to Yemen,” said the CCR. “The president has imposed a moratorium on all transfers to Yemen, which is why more than half of the remaining detainees are Yemenis. … Adnan Latif was held indefinitely and ultimately for life because of his Yemeni citizenship, not his conduct.”
Since the camp was opened in 2002 eight other detainees have died while in custody — six from suicides and the other two from natural causes. The most recent death was in 2011. Latif’s death means there are now 167 detainees at the camp, which at its height held 779 detainees. A third of the detainees still at Guantanamo — 55 men — are Yemeni.
Latif, who contributed to a 2007 book of poetry by detainees, was one of several “Gitmo” detainees who have been participating in hunger strikes, which have been going on at the camp for years.
He had ended his hunger strike on June 1 and had recouped 95 percent of his body weight. Hunger strikers at the camp are routinely force-fed by medical personnel. A Defense Department official says that the hunger strikes are more of a political act than a physical act as many take their liquid nutrient feeds willingly and assist medical personnel with the insertion of the food tubes that force-feed them.
Latif had been disciplined following a recent “splashing” incident and was being housed in a maximum security facility at Guantanamo. He had allegedly assaulted a guard with a “cocktail,” meaning he had allegedly thrown liquid at the guard. “Cocktails” are often concocted from feces, urine and other bodily fluids.
The release from JTF-Guantanamo says Latif’s remains are being treated with respect for Islamic culture and traditions. They will be repatriated to Yemen.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sugam Pokharel and AJ Willingham, CNN
Alanna Petroff, CNN