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geoswan's Journal: Who were the Guantanamo suicides?

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I have been plowing through the transcripts that the DoD released on March 3rd.

Big surprise, DoD spin doctors are being far less than candid about the Guantanamo suicides.

Prior to these three suicides the DoD acknowledged just 41 suicide attempts, from 29 detainees. They also told human rights lawyer Joshua Colangelo-Bryan that he couldn't visit one of his clients Juma Al Dossary, because his visits triggered suicide attempts. They told Colangelo-Bryan that Al Dossary, alone, had tried to commit suicide twelve times.

The DoD was forced to release the identities of the Detainees by a court order from US District Court Jed Rakoff. They exhausted their legal appeals, and started to try to comply with a deadline of March 3rd 2006. They missed that deadline by about half an hour. And they have kept releasing more information in fits and starts since then.

On May 15th the DoD released a list of 759 names, and detainee IDs, which they claimed represented every suspect who had been held in military custody. However, several dozen of the names don't match the names and ID released on a shorter list on April 20th. The April 20th was just a list of all the detainee whose cases had been considered by the Combatant Status Review Tribunals they started to hold in July 2004.

One of the dead men, Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi Al-Utaybi, is not found on the official lists.

Another of the dead men, Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, has been described as a participant in the prison uprising at Mazar-e-Sharif, where a CIA case officer was one of the first Americans to die in Afghanistan. Al Zahrani didn't attend his Combatant Status Review Tribunal. So, I believe, the actual allegations against him remain classified. On March 3rd all the transcripts of all the detainees who did attend their Combatant Status Review Tribunal were made public. I have read a dozen or more transcripts of detainees who were alleged to have been present during the uprising. Some denied being present. I won't discount those denials because the DoD's record keeping for the Guantanamo detainees was pitiful. Others acknowledge being present, or being wounded.

Being present, or even being wounded, does not make a detainee a member of the Taliban, or al Qaeda. It does not make a detainee one of those who plotted, or took part in the uprising.

One of the detainees who was wounded described the circumstances in detail. He had been held in the cellar of the old fort with three or four dozen other men. They were being rousted out of their room to assemble outside for a muster. He was near the end of the line of men. He heard weapons fire. There was a panic. The men ahead of him were pushing and shoving to get out through a narrow doorway, essentially blocking it. He decided to turn around and try to find another exit. He had got a distance from his companions when there was an explosion. Someone had thrown a grenade into the plugged exit. All the guys crowded there seemed to be dead. He was seriously wounded. There was firing outside, so he crawled near a window. His wounds became infected. He became feverish. He remembered someone giving him water. After about a week the Northern Alliance started to flood the cellar. And someone dragged him out.

One of the detainees who committed suicide is alleged to have been a member of the Jamaat Tablighi, an organization that US Security officials claim is tied to terrorism. I have written about Murat Kurnaz. Well, the transcript from his Administrative Review Board contained about sixty pages of letters submitted on his behalf by his lawyers. Among those letters were three written by three American professors of the history of Religion, who offered descriptions of the history and activities of the Jamaat Tablighi.

They all agreed that the Jamaat Tablighi was a non-political group. Pilgrims, who are on a Jamaat Tablighi pilgrimage aren't even supposed to discuss religion. It was founded about a century ago, in reaction to Christian evangelism. What JT pilgrims were supposed to do was join in groups of about a dozen, and go on trips where they visit other areas. They were supposed to talk with one another, and with the locals in the places where they visited, about the right way to pray, the right way to read the Koran, and the right way to be a good Muslim.

Only one of those transcripts contained an allegation of a connection with JT that was consistent with what the professors of Religion. That transcript said the detainee was a member of JT. It then said that al Qaeda operatives had been known to assert that they were on their way to a JT pilgrimage as a cover, to give a plausible excuse for travel that was actually terrorism related.

JT is a large, informal, loosely organized outfit. Al Qaeda operatives could claim to be JT pilgrims. But it is an outrageous exagerration to claim anyone who ever participated in JT was a terrorist. The Oklahoma bomber, and many of his associates, were all former GIs. To claim that everyone who participated in JT was a terrorist would be the same kind of exagerration as to claim that all veterans were terrorists because the Oklahoma bomber was a veteran.

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Who were the Guantanamo suicides?

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