The US has returned the body of a Guantanamo detainee who apparently committed suicide to his native Yemen.
The remains of 31-year-old Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih were released from the US Navy base in Cuba following an autopsy by military pathologists. They arrived early Friday Yemen time, said Pentagon spokesman Navy Commander Jeffrey Gordon.
Salih was found unresponsive inside his cell on Monday, but the military has not released details about his death. It was the fifth suicide reported at Guantanamo Bay since the prison opened in January 2002 for men swept up in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US.
Salih, who also went by the name Al-Hanashi, was one of roughly eight detainees among the 240 remaining at Guantanamo who had never met with a lawyer, according to Shayana Kadidal, an attorney with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. Some letters offering him assistance came back as refused. But Kadidal said a team of pro-bono attorneys had gotten in touch with Salih's family in Yemen, and his fellow inmates reported he was warming to the idea of meeting with lawyers.
"It's particularly sad given how much had gone into closing the gap," Kadidal said.
Transcripts of review hearings at Guantanamo say Salih traveled to Afghanistan in early 2001 and admitted to fighting with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance. He allegedly lived in four different al-Qaida and Taliban-affiliated guest houses before he was captured at Mazar-e-Sharif.
Salih had been held without charge at Guantanamo since February 2002. He joined a long-running hunger strike, dropping to about 86 pounds (39 kilograms) in 2005, and lawyers for other detainees say he was in a psychiatric ward at the time of his death. Jose Ruiz, a spokesman for US Southern Command, which oversees Guantanamo, said details of Salih's death will not be released until the Naval Criminal Investigative Service completes an investigation.