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Timeline: A Guantanamo Death Foretold

December 19, 2012: This timeline has been updated.

Nov. 29, 2012: This timeline has been updated.

Earlier this month, Adnan Latif became the ninth detainee to die in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. He was found dead in his cell. By the government’s own account, he didn’t still need to be there.

Latif was among the first prisoners at Gitmo. But he was not alleged to be a high-level terror suspect, and in 2010 a federal judge ordered his release on the grounds that the government couldn’t prove his connection to Al Qaeda. That ruling was later reversed, and he remained in prison.  Aside from the court battle over his detention, Latif had also been recommended for transfer multiple times by the military. 

Latif’s lawyers have described Latif as mentally unstable, attempting suicide on multiple occasions. The cause of his death has not yet been made public.

Here’s a timeline of Latif’s 11-year imprisonment.

December 15, 2012

Latif’s body is returned to Yemen. The full investigation into his death could take more than a year to complete, a military spokesman told the Miami Herald.

December 2001

Latif is turned over to the U.S. after being captured at the border with Pakistan. What he was doing there is in dispute, as described in a court filing.

January 2002

Latif is among the first prisoners to arrive at Guantanamo Bay when the facility is opened.


The Department of Defense recommends Latif be transferred to detention in another country, according to court documents.

December 18, 2006

Latif is recommended for transfer again, according to a military evaluation released by Wikileaks.

February 2007

While participating in one of the long-term hunger strikes frequent among Guantanamo prisoners, Latif writes to his lawyer, “My wish is to die.” That month, according to court documents, the Department of Defense had recommended Latif’s transfer, pending “diplomatic arrangements.”

January 17, 2008

Latif is once again recommended “for transfer out of DoD control.” The U.S. maintains he is an Al Qaeda affiliate and still a “medium risk” threat to the U.S.

The report also describes his erratic conduct in prison.

January 5, 2010

Obama announces a moratorium on any transfers of detainees to Yemen because of security concerns. The 2009 Christmas-Day attempted airplane bombing, a plot which originated in Yemen, set off a new round of pressure from Congress to halt transfers from Guantanamo to the country.

January 22, 2010

The Obama administration’s Guantanamo Review Task Force recommends 59 Yemenis for transfer, either to a third country or to Yemen, once the moratorium is lifted. The names of those detainees were secret, but Latif’s lawyers now say Latif was among them. (On Friday,
the government released the names of 55 other detainees who have been approved for transfer but remain at Gitmo.)

July 21, 2010

A federal judge in D.C. orders Latif’s release, arguing that the government “failed to demonstrate that the detention of Latif is lawful.” In particular, the judge takes issue with an intelligence report in which Latif appears to have incriminated himself; Latif argued that the report contained mischaracterizations. The government appeals the decision.

August 2010

Latif’s lawyer, David Remes, tells the Miami Herald that Latif has attempted suicide multiple times, eating shards of metal and spending long periods in Guantanamo’s psychiatric ward. Remes said previously that Latif had tried to slit his wrists and throw blood at the lawyer.

December 23, 2010

Congress passes legislation that bans transfers from Guantanamo to any place in the U.S., effectively ruling out trials in U.S. courts for detainees.

December 26, 2010

In a letter to his lawyer, Latif writes “With all my pains, I say goodbye to you and the cry of death should be enough for you.”

October 14, 2011

An appeals court vacates the district court’s order for Latif’s release, arguing that the government’s report must be given the “presumption of regularity,” and weighed above Latif’s assertions that it is inaccurate. One judge dissents, writing that the ruling undermines the principle of Guantanamo detainees’ right to Habeas Corpus, by accepting a government document produced “in the fog of war.”

June 11, 2012

The Supreme Court declines to hear
an appeal of the ruling.

September 8, 2012

Latif is found dead in his cell. According to the Miami Herald, he was being held in single-cell confinement after throwing a container of body fluids at a guard.  The cause of death has not yet been made public, and the military has opened an investigation“to determine the cause and manner surrounding the death.”

November, 2012

A military medical examination has concluded that Latif’s death was a suicide, by an overdose of psychiatric drugs. How he obtained a lethal amount of medication is still being investigated. Meanwhile, his body is being held at a U.S. Air Force base in Germany, still awaiting repatriation to Yemen.

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