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Military officials say Guantanamo detainees concealed suicides

[JURIST] Military officials said Sunday that the three Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees who committed suicide [JURIST report] Saturday by hanging themselves with bedsheets and clothing - identified [AP report] as Saudis Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi Al-Utaybi and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, and Yemeni Ali Abdullah Ahmed - took steps to conceal themselves from patrolling guards as they hung themselves in their cells. The detainees hung themselves behind hanging laundry, and arranged their beds to look like they were still in the beds. Military officials launched an immediate investigation into their deaths, both in regards to how the detainees actually died and whether Guantanamo guards followed appropriate procedures, which include checking on inmates every two minutes. Lt. Commander Robert Durand, commander of Guantanamo Bay, said that guards will begin to collect bed linens every morning, and may revoke permission for detainees to do their laundry inside their cells to prevent similar suicide attempts. Lawyers representing other Saudis held at Guantanamo Bay have expressed skepticism that the detainees killed themselves, and a Saudi human rights group has called for an independent investigation into the deaths. There have also been allegations that Guantanamo guards tortured the detainees [AP report], because the two strict Muslims would never have committed suicide, which is forbidden by Islam, and there have been renewed calls from the Saudi government to release the remaining Saudi detainees [JURIST report] at Guantanamo into Saudi custody.

Gen. John Craddock, Commander of the US Southern Command, speculated Monday that the three suicides may have been timed to correspond with the forthcoming US Supreme Court decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], expected by the end of June, that will determine the legality of military trials for Guantanamo detainees. The suicides prompted renewed calls [Reuters report] from European Union countries for the US to close the Guantanamo detention center [JURIST report] and suggestions from US officials that the suicides were an "act of warfare" and a public relations move [Telegraph report] have sparked criticism.

US authorities allege that Ahmed was a mid- to high-level al Qaeda operative that had not complied with guards and had been on a hunger strike [JURIST report] since last year. Authorities accused Al-Zahrani of working as a front-line Taliban fighter who facilitated weapons purchases, as well as being involved in a 2001 prison uprising in an Afghanistan prison that killed a CIA officer. Al-Utaybi is accused of being a member of splinter group Jama'at Al Tablighi, but authorities have said that he had been recommended for transfer to another country, though it was not clear that al-Utaybi himself knew of his scheduled transfer. The three detainees committed suicide following two other suicide attempts [JURIST report] at Guantanamo, and another apparent suicide attempt was a ruse to lure guards into a cell where they were ambushed by prisoners. Authorities said there have been 43 suicide attempts since Guantanamo opened. David Cloud and Neil Lewis of the New York Times have more.

4:06 PM ET - Amnesty International [advocacy website] on Monday also called for a full "independent investigation led by civilians" [press release] into the Guantanamo deaths and urged the US to grant unrestricted access to UN investigators [JURIST report] so that UN experts can meet privately with detainees.

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