Yemeni’s death in Guantánamo still under investigation

Miami HeraldDecember 18, 2012 

Navy investigators are still investigating the suicide of a Yemeni prisoner who was found dead of an overdose complicated by acute pneumonia, a military spokesman said Tuesday.

The U.S. repatriated the remains of Adnan Latif, 32, on Saturday, three months after he was found dead at Guantánamo’s maximum-security prison. The military also disclosed Saturday that in addition to a pathologist’s finding that Latif died of a “self-induced overdose” of prescription drugs, “acute pneumonia was a contributing factor in his death.”

But “how he got so many pills at once” and how a captive with acute pneumonia was in a solitary cell is under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said Army Col. Greg Julian, chief spokesman at the U.S. Southern Command, which has oversight of the prison camps. NCIS can recommend disciplinary action at Guantánamo as well as possible other changes of prison camp practice, he added.

The remains of Latif — who guards found dead in his cell Sept. 8 — were autopsied at the base and then evacuated to Europe within days for repatriation. The remains, however, spent months in a morgue-like storage facility in Germany while U.S. officials negotiated with Yemen on his return.

Julian said Tuesday the “sensitive situation there in Yemen” delayed the return of the remains.

Yemen has an active al Qaida-inspired insurgency and is wracked by spasms of violence. Latif had spent the month prior to his death, starting Aug. 8, between the prison camp’s psychiatric ward and detainee hospital, and had only been sent back to the prison on Sept. 7, David Remes, Latif’s attorney, said in an interview Tuesday.

“If they had done any kind of competent examination with him at the hospital, presumably they would’ve picked up on severe pneumonia,” Remes said. “He couldn’t develop it within 24 hours.”

At the Guantánamo detention center, Navy Capt. Robert Durand said Latif was in a disciplinary status at Camp 5 for hurling a container of his bodily fluids at a guard. On Tuesday, Durand elaborated in response to a question that the “splashing episode” happened at the detention center hospital, prompting his transfer to the maximum-security prison.

Separately, a Southcom officer carried out an investigation of the death and turned it over to Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser on Nov. 14, before Fraser’s retirement as Southcom commander. That report has yet to be made public, said Julian.

The separate NCIS investigation also involves reading written legal materials that belonged to the prisoner. Julian said it could take up to a year.

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