Civil Liberties  
comments_image Comments

Murder at Guantanamo? The Mysterious, Unsolved Death of Mohammad Saleh al Hanashi

Mohammad Saleh al Hanashi was found dead inside a psych ward at Guantanamo. It was ruled a suicide. But disturbing evidence suggest the truth may be far uglier.

Continued from previous page


However, at the time of his death, al Hanashi was said to have already terminated his hunger strike.

Another odd coincidence surrounding his death concerns the transfer of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a "high-value" detainee, who has been at Guantanamo since September 2006, to a New York federal court, only a week after al Hanashi was found not breathing in Guantanamo's psych ward. Ghailani was facing charges concerning his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

The link between Ghailani and al Hanashi is significant for one reason only: According to Andy Worthington, Ghailani, who was tortured in the CIA's black prisons, fingered al Hanashi in 2005 as having been at "'the al-Farouq camp [the main training camp for Arabs, associated in the years before 9/11 with Osama bin Laden] in 1998-99 prior to moving on to the front lines in Kabul."

But according to al Hanashi and all other sources, al Hanashi came to Afghanistan only in early 2001. Hence, his possible testimony at a trial in New York City, establishing that Ghailani's admissions were false, and likely coerced by torture, may have been a hindrance to a government bent on convicting the supposed bomber. Interestingly, as Worthington points out, the other four embassy bombers were not kept in CIA black prisons or tortured, but convicted in a U.S. court for the bombings in May 2001. (Ghailani sits in Metropolitan Correctional Center, still awaiting trial.)

Al Hanashi's death, coming only weeks before he was, after seven long years imprisonment, to meet finally with an attorney, brings to mind the untimely death of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, also at first reported as a suicide, in a prison cell in Libya last May. Al-Libi, too, was supposed to meet soon with people from the outside, according to a report from Newsweek. As is the case with Al-Libi, the al Hanashi death has a strange feel to it. The ACLU has called for an independent investigation into detainee deaths at Guantanamo, including that of Mohammad Saleh al Hanashi.

Perhaps the most telling fact concerning al Hanashi's death is how silent and disinterested the mainstream media, and even some in the blogosphere, seems to be. A leader of the prisoners is reported as having strangled himself. Not long after becoming a spokesperson for the prisoners, al Hanashi is called to see the top officers at the prison, and is never seen again (outside of the psych ward) until he is found dead. By all accounts, he is kept in a part of the prison where there is constant surveillance. Other witnesses have tales to tell, but their stories are kept classified. His death is a possible convenience for any number of state actors, including prison officials, federal prosecutors and those portions of the Obama administration and military concerned with pressing the war in Afghanistan.

Many would like to look away from the crimes done in the name of U.S. "security" at Guantanamo and other "war on terror" prisons in the Bush/Cheney years, and believe that these things are of the past. But increasingly, Americans are waking up to the fact that something very wrong and bad is still occurring regularly at Guantanamo and perhaps other U.S. facilities. The U.S. administration will not even let members of Congress go and interview prisoners in Guantanamo. What do they have to fear?

What will the NCIS investigation reveal about the death of Mohammad Saleh al Hanashi? It's been six months since his death. We deserve some answers now.

Jeffrey Kaye is a psychologist active in the anti-torture movement. He works clinically with torture victims at Survivors International in San Francisco, CA. His blog is Invictus; as "Valtin," he also regularly blogs at Daily Kos, Docudharma, American Torture, Progressive Historians, and elsewhere.