The detainee's cells aren't tall enough for an instant death by hanging. The DoD asserts that the men stuffed their mouths with cloth, to deaden choking sounds, and allowed themselves to slowly choke to death. Forensic experts say this would have taken at least five minutes, possibly much longer.
The dead men's families were skeptical. Islam forbides suicide. They arranged for an independent post-mortems by a team of international experts.
Early reports, after the bodies were returned, said the men's bodies were bruised, as if they had been beaten, and that some of their organs were missing.
Dr. Patrice Mangin, A Swiss forensic pathologist who heads the team, says removing organs that spoil quickly, like the brain and liver, is routine in post-mortems, and not a sign of a coverup. However, he said that the corpse of the dead Yemeni man, Al Salami, the first man to get a second post-mortem, was missing its throat. He has asked the American authoritiies to return Al Salami's throat, and the sheets that they say the men were hanged with. He says they are necessary for a reliable determination.
The DoD has "lost" crucial organs of other men who died in military custody, like Nagam Hatab.
I haven't seen this theory suggested anywhere else. One of the dead men had been on a hunger strike since last August. In January the camp authorities started using "restraint chairs" when force-feeding detainees. Detainee's lawyers repeated the detainee's claims that being force-fed while strapped into a restraint chair is not just undignified, but can be extremely painful. 90% of the hunger strikers quit within days of the introduction of the restraint chair for force-feeding.
The DoD claimed that the force-feeding was done as humanely and gently as possible. The DoD claimed that they had to confine the detainees to restraint chairs because the detainees would induce vomiting to circumvent the force-feeding otherwise. The detainees claimed that it was sometimes done brutally by guards with no medical training, who used painfully over-size feeding tubes. Detainees claimed that the tubes were sometimes yanked out by putting a foot on the detainees chest, and yanking them out. Detainees claimed that freshly used tubes, dripping with blood, vomit, and spoiled food were then reused on other detainees, without even being rinsed off. Detainees claimed that the hunger strikers had to endure excruciatingly painful cramps while in the chairs, and would soil themselves when they lost control of their bowels and bladder. Detainees said they believed that their feeding fluid was adulterated with material that caused the excruciating cramps, and that their stomachs were filled beyond capacity.
Without regard to how much of the competing claims we believe, I think it is possible, likely in fact, that nine months of struggling to insert a feeding tube three times a day would cause bruising and scarring to a hunger-striker's throat. I speculate that the tube may have totally blocked a throat that was already traumatized by earlier force-feedings.
So, the possibility that I haven't seen anyone else suggest is that an inattentive medical attendant didn't notice that three hunger strikers were slowly choking to death.
The military pathologists ruled suicide. A determined guy who dies from a hunger strike did commit a kind of suicide. Why would the DoD cover that up? Because they justified intervening and administering force-feeding claiming it was necessary to preserve the detainee's lives -- and it would be embarrassing to admit that the force-feeding had actually killed the detainees.
This would explain why the DoD didn't return Al Salami's throat when they returned his body.
I'll keep this article updated with news of the independent team's post-mortem.
FWIW a guy whose body has been weakened by hunger strike might bruise a lot more easily than a normally healthy person. If so, being covered by bruises might not be a sign of a brutal beating.