SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Agencies) – The detainee who died at Guantanamo Bay in an apparent suicide was identified as a Saudi military veteran and self-described Islamic holy warrior who denied he ever intended to kill Americans.
U.S. military records show the detainee admitted having a connection to al-Qaeda but insisted he was little more than a Taliban foot soldier when the United States invaded Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The military and the Saudi government on Thursday identified the detainee as Abdul Rahman Maadha al-Amry. U.S. records show he was 34 and had been held without charges at the prison at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in southeastern Cuba since February 2002.
Al-Amry had no attorney of record, although the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a blanket legal challenge on behalf of all Guantanamo detainees. Lawyers say many detainees have little faith in the American legal system but others simply do not understand it.
The U.S. military said al-Amry was not breathing when he was found Wednesday by guards in Camp 5, a modern, high-security section of Guantanamo generally reserved for detainees who are considered to have intelligence value or who do not follow prison rules.
Al-Amry was said by another detainee to have been on a hunger strike in March. Military records recently obtained by The Associated Press suggest he had also refused food in the past, with his weight dropping below 90 pounds (41 kilograms) at one point in 2005. He weighed 150 pounds (68 kilograms) when he entered Guantanamo.
A Guantanamo spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Rick Haupt, said al-Amry was not on a hunger strike at the time of his death, but he had been force-fed with a nasal tube in the past. He said he did not know if the prisoner had attempted suicide in the past.
Authorities have not revealed how they believe he killed himself in what would be the fourth suicide at the detention center, which holds about 380 men on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
Haupt said al-Amry’s cell was “regularly” monitored by guards, though he did not say how often. “We will seek to understand what happened and we will seek to prevent it from happening again,” he said.
“The military has also not disclosed any potential motive for suicide, although Guantanamo critics say indefinite confinement in the solid-wall, one-person cells for all but about two hours a day at Camps 5 and 6 has caused depression among detainees.
“Camp 5 is just utterly grim psychologically,” said Sabin Willett, a lawyer for Guantanamo detainees. “There’s no question that isolation destroys human beings.”
The apparent suicide came nearly a year after two Saudis and one Yemeni hanged themselves with sheets at Guantanamo, a case that prompted the military to adopt new security measures aimed at preventing such deaths.
Al-Amry did not appear before the military panel that determined he was an “enemy combatant” who should be kept in custody. But he spoke to a personal representative appointed by the military and acknowledged some of the accusations against him, according to a transcript of the hearing obtained by AP last year through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. He said he went to Afghanistan in 2000 and fought for the Taliban because he felt it was his duty as a Muslim to aid an Islamic government. He said he attended a “school for jihad” and saw Osama bin Laden “from a distance.”