Afghan Guantanamo detainee uses bedsheet to commit suicide

Miami HeraldMay 19, 2011 

WASHINGTON — An Afghan detainee who died this week at Guantanamo had a history of psychological problems so severe that his lawyer arranged to bring a civilian psychiatrist to the base to work with him.

"I have no doubt it was a suicide," Paul Rashkind, a federal public defender in Miami, said Thursday. "This is really a sad mental health case ... starting from childhood."

At Guantanamo, "they treated him pretty humanely, I'd have to say," Rashkind said.

A military spokeswoman, Army Lt. Col. Tanya Bradsher, said the man had been found dangling by a bed sheet in a prison camp recreation yard early Wednesday and apparently had hanged himself.

The Pentagon identified the detainee as Inayatullah, 37, who was described as an al Qaida emir in Iran when he was brought to the detention center in southeast Cuba in September 2007.

But Rashkind said the man's real name was Hajji Nassim, that he'd never been known as Inayatullah anywhere but in Guantanamo, had never had a role in al Qaida and ran a cellphone shop in Iran near the Afghan border.

Little is known about how U.S. authorities tied Nassim to al Qaida. He arrived at Guantanamo long after nearly all the other detainees and was never known to have undergone a combatant status review tribunal, a procedure designed by the Pentagon to evaluate whether he met the criteria for detention as an "enemy combatant."

There are no known pictures of him, and his Guantanamo intelligence risk assessment, if there was one, was not among secret files the WikiLeaks website turned over to McClatchy earlier this year. The only document the Pentagon has released on him was a Sept. 12, 2007 news release saying he'd been captured.

Rashkind called the case "an outlier" in the prison camp processes, partly because Nassim was brought there so late in the camps' history and partly because of his mental health issues. He was never designated for trial, indefinite detention or release, Rashkind said.

"To me this is a human tragedy," said Rashkind, who has defended four Guantanamo captives. "I don't think he belonged there at all."

Legal sources familiar with the case added that Nassim had spent long stretches in the psychiatric ward at Guantanamo and had had tried to harm himself previously.

Asked how it was possible that Nassim had succeeded in killing himself at a camp that boasts it has guards monitoring detainees at all time, another spokeswoman, Navy Cmdr. Tamsen Reese, said only that the death was "under investigation."

An autopsy was performed, Bradsher said, and the body will be repatriated to Afghanistan.

Nassim was the sixth detainee suicide at the camps. With Nassim's death, the number of detainees at Guantanamo dropped to 171.

(Rosenberg reports for The Miami Herald.)

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