US Still Holds Detainee Pentagon Wanted Freed in 2004

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McClatchy Newspapers

US Still Holds Detainee Pentagon Wanted Freed in 2004

by
Carol Rosenberg

An emotionally ill detainee still being held at
the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was first recommended
for release by the Pentagon in 2004, according to a federal judge whose
ruling ordering that the man be freed was made public this week.

Despite the Pentagon's recommendation, it wasn't
until 2007 that the Bush administration adopted the military
assessment and put Adnan Abdul Latif, now about 34, on an approved
transfer list.

By then, however, the issue of transferring prisoners to Yemen, Osama
bin Laden's ancestral homeland, was
mired in a diplomatic standoff over whether the Arabian Peninsula nation
could provide
security assurances and rehabilitate suspected radicalized Guantanamo
detainees.

U.S. District Court Judge Henry Kennedy disclosed the timeline in a heavily censored
28-page ruling made public on Monday night that ordered Latif set free. Latif is the 38th
Guantanamo captive to be found by a federal judge to be illegally detained at the remote
U.S. Navy base.

Kennedy first ordered the Obama administration to arrange for Latif's release
"forthwith'' on July 21. But a Justice Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, said government
lawyers were still deciding Tuesday night whether to appeal to a higher court.

"Why they continue to defend holding him is unfathomable," said David Remes, Latif's
free-of-charge attorney. "Adnan's case reflects the Obama administration's complete
failure to bring the Guantanamo litigation under control."

Latif, held at Guantanamo since Jan. 18, 2002, has said for years that he had suffered
a head injury in his teens and was in Pakistan and Afghanistan seeking Islamic charity
medical care before his capture.

The U.S. Justice Department countered that Latif was seen at an al Qaida guest house
and trained with the terror movement.

But in the portion of the judge's ruling made public Kennedy noted that the Pentagon's
own military intelligence analysis found no eyewitness to back up the claim, only
war-on-terror captives who had seen him in U.S. prison camps.

Kennedy quoted from a 2004 Defense Department report that recommended he be sent home
and said Latif "is not known to have participated in combatant/terrorist training."

The government had "not proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Latif was in
Afghanistan to train and fight with'' either the Taliban or Al Qaida, Kennedy wrote.

Latif's lawyer said the Yemeni has spent long periods of his captivity in the
Guantanamo psychiatric ward after repeated suicide attempts and reacted with despair to
the judge's ruling.

"He sees death as his only way out," Remes said.

Latif has covered himself in excrement, thrown blood at the lawyer, swallowed shards of
metal and tried to eat glass in dozens of self-harm episodes, Remes said.

Latif was brought to meet his lawyer last week in a padded green garment held together by Velcro called a "suicide smock,"
according to Remes, who said he had been stripped of his underwear. Prison camp guards
have put the smocks on display for reporters during camp tours and said in the past they
also had acquired suicide-proof underwear.

Pentagon records show Latif was measured at 5-feet-4-inches and weighed 114 pounds on
his arrival at the prison camps on Jan. 18, 2002. Remes said by last week he had been
weighed at 93.

More than half of the 176 captives currently at Guantanamo are Yemeni citizens, a
portion of whom an Obama Task Force has approved for transfer home.

But the White House has frozen most Yemeni transfers following the aborted Christmas
Day bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound airliner by a Nigerian man who said he was trained
in Yemen.

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