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What Happened to Mohamed al-Hanashi?

Mohammed al-Hanashi, a 31-year-old Yemeni citizen who was held at Guantánamo Bay without charge for seven years, died in custody in June. The US military immediately ruled his death a suicide, but the circumstances in which he died suggest strong grounds for doubting the official version.

NEW YORK – Mohammed al-Hanashi was a 31-year-old Yemeni citizen who was held at Guantánamo Bay without charge for seven years. On June 3, while I was visiting Guantánamo with other journalists, the press office there issued a terse announcement that al-Hanashi had had been found dead in his cell – an “apparent suicide.”

Because my commercial flight was canceled, I got a ride back to the United States on a military transport. I happened to be seated next to a military physician who had been flown in to do the autopsy on al-Hanashi. When would there be an investigation of the death, I asked him? “That was the investigation,” he replied. The military had investigated the military.

This “apparent suicide” seemed immediately suspicious to me. I had just toured those cells: it is literally impossible to kill yourself in them. Their interiors resemble the inside of a smooth plastic jar; there are no hard edges; hooks fold down; there is no bedding that one can use to strangle oneself. Can you bang your head against the wall until you die, theoretically, I asked the doctor? “They check on prisoners every three minutes,” he said. You’d have to be fast.

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