RIYADH (Reuters) – A lawyer for Saudi nationals imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay said on Sunday he held U.S. authorities responsible for the deaths of two Saudi prisoners who hanged themselves at the U.S. naval base.
Saudi Arabia, a staunch U.S. ally, said it was stepping up efforts to repatriate all nationals held at the base in Cuba.
An Interior Ministry statement identified the two Saudis as Manei al-Otaibi and Yasser al-Zahrani but gave no further details about them. A Yemeni man also committed suicide.
“We are doing all we can to bring the bodies of the two victims home,” a Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman told Reuters, but declined to say if Riyadh would ask for an investigation into the deaths.
The three men, who hanged themselves with clothes and bedsheets, were the first prisoners to die at the base in Cuba since the United States began holding “terrorism” suspects there in 2002.
“Our priority now is to repatriate the bodies of the victims and to step up our efforts to bring back all Saudis detained there,” the Interior Ministry spokesman said.
“Each Saudi has to be brought home where he can face up to charges he is accused of based on our laws and regulations.”
He said there were up to 103 Saudis detained at the naval base, which holds about 460 foreigners captured mainly in Afghanistan where the United States has fought the Taliban and al Qaeda.
The detainees’ deaths renewed criticism of the base, which many human rights groups say should be closed. Nearly all the prisoners at Guantanamo, in Cuba, are being held without charge and some have been held for more than three years.
“The detainees’ death reveals the mistreatment at Guantanamo and the extent human rights are breached,” said Katib al-Shimary, lawyer for Saudi detainees at Guantanamo. “Their suicide, that is if they did commit suicide, is a response to the oppression and injustice they lived in.”
“I hold the U.S. authorities responsible for their deaths,” Shimary told Saudi-owned satellite television Al Arabiya.
The lawyer said U.S. authorities did not allow him or any other foreign lawyers to meet detainees, adding that he had not been informed of the death of the two Saudis.
The U.S. military said guards at the camp found the three Arab men not breathing in their cells shortly after midnight and attempts to resuscitate them failed.
The three detainees had taken part previously in extended hunger strikes and been force-fed. They all left suicide notes but no details were made public.
Saudi Arabia has freed at least eight detainees handed over to it from Guantanamo, saying they had completed their jail sentences. In May, the kingdom said it had received 15 Saudi detainees and that they would be put on trial in the kingdom if a review of their cases shows a trial was justified.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who carried out the September 11, 2001, attacks on U.S. cities were from Saudi Arabia, as is al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
We appreciate your support
One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at Amazon.com.
Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission — at no additional cost to you — for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this service free of charge.