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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

At Guantanamo, 166 Prisoners Remain

A U.S. trooper stands in the turret of a vehicle with a machine gun, left, as a guard looks out from a tower, in this 2010 photo of Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. (AP/Brennan Linsley)

A Guantanamo detainee runs in an exercise area at the detention facility on Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba in April 2010. (AP/Michelle Shephard)

Next week, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged accomplices will have pre-trial hearings at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base. Mohammed is the self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11th terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

There are 166 detainees still being held on Guantanamo Bay, after two men left the detention center late last month. One was Omar Khadr, who was 15 when he killed an American serviceman in Afghanistan in 2002. He was sent to Gitmo soon after, becoming the youngest detainee there. Khadr, a Canadian citizen, pleaded guilty to war crimes in 2010 and last month was released to a Canadian prison. He could soon be eligible for parole.

Also gone from Guantanamo is Adnan Latif, by most accounts a mentally unstable young Yemeni and one of the first prisoners at the detention facility. It’s thought he committed suicide last month.

A Guantanamo detainee carries a workbook as he is escorted by guards after the detainee attended a class in “Life Skills” at Guantanamo Bay detention facility in March 2010. (AP/Brennan Linsley)

“That’s the way people get out of Guantanamo these days, occasionally someone gets released after pleading guilty, but generally the way to leave is if you’ve died,” Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg told Here & Now‘s Robin Young. Rosenberg has been covering the detention center since it opened ten years ago.

Latif was found dead in his cell under circumstances the military still hasn’t clarified.

“At this point, we don’t know what happened to him. We know that an autopsy was conducted. We haven’t been privy to the results yet,” said Marc Falkoff, one of Latif’s pro bono lawyers.

Falkoff says while Latif may have committed suicide, he could also have been suffering from bad health due to repeated hunger strikes over the years.

Guantanamo has been off the radar for many Americans lately, and the issue has been all but absent from the presidential campaigns. That’s in spite of the fact President Obama signed an order in 2009 to close the detention facility within that year.


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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