Bodies sent home from Guantanamo

The bodies of three men who committed suicide at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre have been sent home, according to US officials.

    The three detainees were the first to die at the prison camp

    A commercial charter jet transported the bodies from the camp in Cuba to Yemen and Saudi Arabia, Navy Lieutenant Commander Jeffrey Gordon, a defence department spokesman, said on Friday.

    Funeral rites were administered at Guantanamo by a Muslim imam assisted by Muslim personnel at the base, Gordon said. "The remains of the deceased detainees were treated with the utmost respect."

    The two Saudis and one Yemeni hanged themselves with clothes and bedsheets in maximum security cells on June 10.

    The US military identified the three men as Ali Abdullah Ahmed of Yemen, and Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi al-Utaybi and Yassar Talal al-Zahrani, from Saudi Arabia. They were the first inmates to die at the camp since it opened in 2002 at a US naval base in Cuba.

    Family reaction

    The families of the three have questioned the circumstances of the deaths, saying the men would not have committed suicide as they were devout Muslims.

    Gordon said there had not been any disturbances involving detainees at Guantanamo since the suicides.

    The military said pathologists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner's office conducted autopsies on the bodies of the three detainees but were still awaiting test results before announcing an official cause of death.


    inmates have been in the
    prison for more than four years

    Army General Bantz Craddock, who oversees Guantanamo as head of the US Southern Command, said the military was reviewing the adequacy of procedures at the facility, and whether those procedures were followed, in light of the suicides.

    Meanwhile, a senior US state department official has said the US president is mindful of European concerns over Guantanamo Bay but is not expected to offer a date for its closure when he visits Europe next week, .

    "He [George W Bush] is very aware of the concerns in Europe and elsewhere about Guantanamo, about the damage frankly that it does to the image of the United States," said John B. Bellinger III, the state department's legal adviser, said on Friday.


    "The difficulty frankly though is the dilemma about what to do with the people who are there. And what is interesting is despite the many voices who have called for the closure of Guantanamo, not one has suggested what should be done with the people who are there," Bellinger said in an interview with The Associated Press.

    The state department adviser said many countries would not accept the return of detainees in the camp was closed.

    Bush and leaders of the European Union meet on Wednesday in Vienna, Austria. The EU has renewed its calls for the US to shut down the camp following the suicide of the three detainees, and plans to raise the issue at the EU-US summit.

    The US holds about 460 detainees at the prison, most have been held without charges for more than four years. Ten have been charged with crimes but no trials have been completed.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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