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Families say Saudi Guantanamo deaths not suicides

Written by: Staff

RIYADH, Jun 12 (Reuters) Relatives of two Saudi detainees who died at Guantanamo Bay said the men could not have committed suicide as the U S military reported, because they are strict Muslims, newspapers said today.

Islam prohibits suicide and sets out harsh punishments in the after-life for those who take their own lives. The men's families said they had probably been killed.

Saudi Arabia, a staunch U S ally, identified the two Saudis as Manei al-Otaibi and Yasser al-Zahrani and said it was working on the repatriation of their bodies. The kingdom did not say how the men died but the U S military said the detainees, along with a Yemeni man, had hanged themselves.

''I am confident my son did not commit suicide,'' Talal al-Zahrani, Yasser's father, told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

''The story of the US administration is a lie.'' Zahrani's brother, Ahmed, also said it was unthinkable that Yasser would kill himself. ''It's impossible for Yasser to commit suicide,'' he told al-Watan newspaper. ''He was killed,'' said another brother, Abdullah.

Fares al-Otaibi, Manei's brother, also suspected foul play.

''We are 100 percent suspicious about his death,'' he told the newspaper.

The two Saudis and one Yemeni were the first prisoners the US military has reported as dying at the base in Guantanamo, Cuba where the United States has held ''terrorism'' suspects since 2002. Washington said they hanged themselves with clothes and bedsheets.

The deaths renewed criticism of the base, which many human rights groups say should be closed. Nearly all the prisoners at Guantanamo are being held without charge and some have been held for more than four years.

The U S military camp holds 460 foreigners captured mainly in Afghanistan during the U S-led war there to oust the Taliban and al Qaeda after the September 11 attacks.

There have been many previous suicide attempts at Guantanamo.

Before Saturday, 23 prisoners had tried to kill themselves in 41 suicide attempts at the camp.

Katib al-Shimary, a lawyer for Saudi detainees at Guantanamo, said he held the U S authorities responsible for the deaths. ''We lost confidence in U.S. jails ... after Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo,'' he told local newspapers.

Riyadh declined to say if it would ask for a probe into the deaths but pledged more efforts to bring back all Saudis detained at Guantanamo, estimated at up to 103.

Saudi Arabia has freed at least eight detainees handed over to it from Guantanamo after they completed their jail sentences.

In May, the kingdom said it had received 15 Saudi detainees and might put them on trial.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who carried out the September 11 attacks on U S cities were from Saudi Arabia, as is al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.


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