An emotionally ill detainee still being held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was first recommended for release by the Pentagon in 2004, according to a federal judge whose ruling ordering that the man be freed was made public this week.
Despite the Pentagon's recommendation, it wasn't until 2007 that the Bush administration adopted the military assessment and put Adnan Abdul Latif, now about 34, on an approved transfer list. By then, however, the issue of transferring prisoners to Yemen, Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland, was mired in a diplomatic standoff over whether the Arabian Peninsula nation could provide security assurances and rehabilitate suspected radicalized Guantanamo detainees.
U.S. District Court Judge Henry Kennedy disclosed the timeline in a heavily censored 28-page ruling made public on Monday night that ordered Latif set free. Latif is the 38th Guantanamo captive to be found by a federal judge to be illegally detained at the remote U.S. Navy base.
Kennedy first ordered the Obama administration to arrange for Latif's release "forthwith'' on July 21. But a Justice Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, said government lawyers were still deciding Tuesday night whether to appeal to a higher court.
"Why they continue to defend holding him is unfathomable," said David Remes, Latif's free-of-charge attorney. "Adnan's case reflects the Obama administration's complete failure to bring the Guantanamo litigation under control."
Latif, held at Guantanamo since Jan. 18, 2002, has said for years that he had suffered a head injury in his teens and was in Pakistan and Afghanistan seeking Islamic charity medical care before his capture.
The U.S. Justice Department countered that Latif was seen at an al Qaida guest house and trained with the terror movement.
But in the portion of the judge's ruling made public Kennedy noted that the Pentagon's own military intelligence analysis found no eyewitness to back up the claim, only war-on-terror captives who had seen him in U.S. prison camps.
Kennedy quoted from a 2004 Defense Department report that recommended he be sent home and said Latif "is not known to have participated in combatant/terrorist training."
The government had "not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Latif was in Afghanistan to train and fight with'' either the Taliban or Al Qaida, Kennedy wrote.
Latif's lawyer said the Yemeni has spent long periods of his captivity in the Guantanamo psychiatric ward after repeated suicide attempts and reacted with despair to the judge's ruling.
"He sees death as his only way out," Remes said.
Latif has covered himself in excrement, thrown blood at the lawyer, swallowed shards of metal and tried to eat glass in dozens of self-harm episodes, Remes said.
Latif was brought to meet his lawyer last week in a padded green garment held together by Velcro called a "suicide smock," according to Remes, who said he had been stripped of his underwear. Prison camp guards have put the smocks on display for reporters during camp tours and said in the past they also had acquired suicide-proof underwear.
Pentagon records show Latif was measured at 5-feet-4-inches and weighed 114 pounds on his arrival at the prison camps on Jan. 18, 2002. Remes said by last week he had been weighed at 93.
More than half of the 176 captives currently at Guantanamo are Yemeni citizens, a portion of whom an Obama Task Force has approved for transfer home.
But the White House has frozen most Yemeni transfers following the aborted Christmas Day bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound airliner by a Nigerian man who said he was trained in Yemen.