Military officials for several days declined to identify the detainee, citing procedures concerning notifying his family of his death. Latif’s lawyer, David Remes, said Tuesday that he had notified the family himself.
“Latif’s death is a tragedy and could have been avoided. This is a man who never should have been brought to Guantanamo,” Remes said. “He was fragile physically and psychologically, and cried out for treatment.”
Latif, the ninth detainee to have died at the Guantanamo Bay detention center since 2002, was captured near the Afghan-Pakistani border in late 2001 and was among the first prisoners to be transferred to Guantanamo in January 2002.
He had a long history of hunger strikes and once weighed as little as 89.8 pounds, according to Defense Department records. He attempted suicide multiple times before his death and had been reprimanded for misbehavior. He was being held in maximum security in Camp Five.
Latif was cleared for release by the military in 2004 and approved for transfer five years later by the Justice Department’s Guantanamo Review Task Force. Separately, in July 2010, a federal court in Washington ruled in favor of Latif’s habeas corpus petition, ordering that he be released to Yemen. The court found that the Obama administration had failed to show that Latif had a connection to al-Qaeda.
His transfer to Yemen, however, was delayed in 2010 after the administration suspended releases from Guantanamo to Yemen after the thwarted Christmas Day bombing attempt of a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit. The plot originated in Yemen.
In 2011, an appeals court threw out the ruling ordering Latif to be released. In June, the Supreme Court declined to hear his case.
Latif’s death brings the detainee population at Guantanamo to 167. Three detainees have been transferred out of the prison this year.
The last detainee to die at Guantanamo, in May 2011, was an Afghan named Inayatullah, whose death was ruled a suicide.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service will investigate Latif’s death and try to determine its cause.