GUANTÁNAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, CUBA — A Yemeni man whose release had been overturned last year was found dead in his cell at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba last week, the U.S. military said on Tuesday. The man had spent nearly eleven years in custody.
Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, 32, was found unconscious and unresponsive in his cell on Saturday afternoon by Joint Task Force-Guantanamo guards who were conducting routine checks. The guards performed first aid and summoned medical personnel to the scene, which rushed Latif to Naval Hospital Guantanamo where he was later pronounced dead.
"Following the detainee's death, an autopsy was conducted by a medical examination team from the office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner to determine the cause of death," a spokesperson for U.S. Southern Command said in a statement. "Autopsy results and cause of death determinations take time, and therefore are not available for release."
Military authorities said Latif's remains are being treated with respect for Islamic culture and traditions. "Following the autopsy, a Muslim military chaplain, the Joint Task Force Guantanamo Cultural Advisor, and Islamic volunteers from the staff were on hand to ensure the appropriate handling of the body," the statement added.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating the cause and manner surrounding the death.
Latif was captured by Pakistani security forces along the border with Afghanistan in December 2001, just three months after the attacks of September 11 in the United States. He was turned over to the United States and accused of being a member of al-Qaeda, but there are conflicting reports about his story.
According to a classified assessment file made public by WikiLeaks, the U.S. military believed Latif was an al-Qaeda fighter in the Tora Bora region of eastern Afghanistan. The file claims Latif acknowledged receiving weapons training from the Taliban and fighting in support of the Taliban on the front lines.
The assessment file further claimed Latif acknowledged having received training at the al-Qaeda al-Faruq training camp and participated in hostilities against U.S. and coalition forces. He apparently also acknowledged recruitment from a senior al-Qaeda facilitator, using an al-Qaeda cover story, and expressed continued support for extremism. He is said to have also been listed on an al-Qaeda affiliated document.
But during later interviews, Latif claimed he had traveled to Afghanistan for the purpose of rebuilding an Islamic center or to receive medical treatment for severe head injuries he sustained in a car accident in 1994. But a visual inspection found no evidence of scars or defects, and his account of the accident was different in separate interviews.
Nonetheless, a federal trial judge in the U.S. District Court in Washington in 2010 described the military's intelligence report as unreliable and granted Latif's habeas corpus petition, pointing out that other detainees did not know him and that he had presented a plausible alternative story.
But a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overruled that decision last year, citing inconsistencies in Latif's account and adding that the military report was entitled to a "presumption of regularity." The U.S. Supreme Court in June refused to hear an appeal from Latif.
The Yemeni man was one of the first inmates at the controversial detention facility in Cuba, where eight other inmates have died by either suicide or of natural causes. Latif is reported to have attempted suicide several times during his nearly 11-year-long stay at the facility, which now has a population of 167.
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