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Pentagon appears to impede independent autopsy of Gitmo ‘suicide’

By Diana Sweet
Thursday, February 4, 2010 2:56 EDT
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The family of a former Gitmo detainee are still waiting years later for answers regarding the events leading up to their son’s death. Hope that a second autopsy would provide those answers has been at a standstill as the doctor who performed the autopsy waits for U.S. officials to respond to a request for the return of the deceased’s missing throat, a request the Pentagon now appears to be denying was ever made.

Ahmed Ali Al-Salami was one of three inmates at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba’s Naval base whose death in 2006 was ruled a suicide by the U.S. military. The suicides, referred to at the time as “an act of asymmetrical warfare” by Rear Adm. Harry Harris, commander of Joint Task Force-Guantanamo have been called into new focus in January of this year.

A report published in Harper’s Magazine, and written by constitutional scholar and Contributing Editor of Harper’s Scott Horton, includes details provided to Harper’s by four members of a U.S. military intelligence unit assigned to Guantanamo Bay. “All four soldiers say they were ordered by their commanding officer not to speak out, and all four soldiers provide evidence that authorities initiated a cover-up within hours of the prisoners’ deaths,” reported Horton. It also seems that rather than supplying the deceased’s missing throat and other necessary items, the Pentagon is attempting to cast aspersions on Horton’s report, ‘The Guantanamo “Suicides”: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle.’

From a report in Human Events, unnamed sources with the “Obama-run Pentagon and NCIS” issued the following statement:

“An article in Harper’s Magazine on-line claiming that the suicides were actually homicides, and the NCIS knowingly participated in a coverup of those killings, is nonsense. NCIS categorically and unequivocally rejects these accusations. The Harper’s article incorporates a great deal of supposition, intended to fill in where details are unknown to the author. It contains numerous factual errors.”

Horton followed up on Wednesday this week with Rachid Mesli, to counter the to counter the Pentagon’s assertion that no request was made for the missing throat. Mesli is the legal director of Alkarama, a Swiss-based group that documents human rights abuses in the Arab world. Al-Salami’s family sought his help in arranging a secondary autopsy by an independent team of forensic scientists for their son.

Mesli provides a copy of the letter he sent to the Armed Forces Medical Examiner, Dr. Craig Mallack that requested — among other items — “A copy of the report of autopsy carried out by your team and the histological samples as well as the anatomical sample corresponding to the upper airways including the larynx, the hyoid bone and the thyroid cartilage removed in one piece during the autopsy.”

While no written response was ever obtained, repeated efforts to reach Dr. Mallack were finally successful, says Mesli. “Dr. Mallak stated that he was not allowed to cooperate with any organization without an explicit authorization from U.S. authorities. Such authorization had not been granted to him, he said. Accordingly, our request for the missing body parts and other documents was made formally and in writing, we know it was received by Dr. Mallak, and Dr. Mallak made clear that he was not being permitted to cooperate with us or the pathologists conducting the second autopsy.”

After reading the following passage in the Human Events report, another unnamed source calls into question the fate of Al-Salami’s throat. “The parts are not missing. The pathologist removed them for examination and determined they were consistent with hanging. They were kept, as is standard procedure, until the criminal investigation is completed, which happened in 2008,” says the author. “I am told authoritatively that the families have not requested the neck organs.” This seems to suggest that once the military’s criminal investigation into itself was finished, the throat and neck organs were in all probability destroyed.

 
 
 
 
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