The reported suicides of two Saudi prisoners at Guantanamo Bay intensified Saudi anger at the camp, drawing questions Sunday about whether the men really killed themselves or were driven to it by torture.
The detention of more than 130 Saudis at the U.S. jail has long grated on people in the kingdom, and there was marked skepticism that the prisoners committed suicide.
“The families don’t believe it, and of course I don’t believe it either,” said Kateb al Shimri, a lawyer who represents relatives of Saudis held at Guantanamo.
“A crime was committed here and the U.S. authorities are responsible,” al Shimri said, echoing the general sentiment heard in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Al Shimri said he planned to sue the U.S. government for compensation on behalf of the relatives of the deceased.
The kingdom’s semiofficial human rights organization called for an independent investigation into the deaths of the two Saudis, who were identified Sunday by Saudi officials as Mani bin Shaman bin Turki al Habradi and Yasser Talal Abdullah Yahya al Zahrani.
A Yemini prisoner also killed himself early Saturday, U.S. authorities said. His identity was not released.
U.S. accused of complicity
Many Saudis denounced the suicide claim as a fabrication, and some accused U.S. authorities of complicity in the inmates’ deaths.
“There are no independent monitors at the detention camp so it is easy to pin the crime on the prisoners, given that it’s possible they were tortured,” said Mufleh al-Qahtani, deputy director of the state-sponosred Saudi Human Rights Group.
Saleh al-Khathlan, director of monitoring at the rights group, explicitly accused Guantanamo officials of torturing prisoners.
“Even if the suicide story is true, I have no doubts that they were pushed to it by torture and the lack of attention paid to the health of the detainees,” he said.
The families of other Saudi prisoners also questioned the U.S. version.
“They were killed; they were murdered. This was no suicide,” said Lulua al Dakheel, whose son, 22-year-old Fahed al Fouzan, has been at Guantanamo for more than four years.
Speaking through tears, she added: “There are no guarantees that my son won’t be next. These people (U.S. officials) can’t be trusted. They treat their dogs better than they treat our sons.”
Muslim prohibition against suicide cited
Some people in the conservative Islamic kingdom questioned whether Muslim men would kill themselves since suicide is a grave sin in Islam. But defense lawyers and some former detainees said many prisoners at Guantanamo are wasting away in deep despair at their long captivity.
The U.S. military said the bodies of the two Saudis and one Yemeni were found in their cells, hanging from sheets and clothing. Officials said all three left suicide notes.
According to U.S. military officials, the dead men had previously engaged in a hunger strike to protest their indefinite incarceration and had been force-fed before quitting their protest.
One of the prisoners was accused by U.S. officials of being a mid- or high-level al-Qaida operative, while another was captured in Afghanistan and participated in a riot at a prison there, said the jail’s commander, Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris. The third belonged to a splinter group, he said.