February 17, 2010 / 5:33 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. court dismisses suit over Guantanamo suicides

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge has dismissed a lawsuit by the families of two detainees who died at the controversial American prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in a case seeking compensation from U.S. officials.

The two men, one from Saudi Arabia and the other from Yemen, were found dead in June 2006 in apparent suicides. Their families filed a lawsuit accusing the officials of subjecting the men to torture and abuse before they died at the prison.

The U.S. military had accused the Saudi, Yasser al-Zahrani, of going to Afghanistan to fight in a “jihad” with the Taliban and carrying a radio. Al-Zahrani had worked as a cook and denied ever fighting, the military has said.

The Yemeni, Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed Al-Salami, was accused by the U.S. military of having links to al Qaeda and was captured in a safe house in early 2002 where a notebook with information about nuclear bomb-making was found. He had denied knowledge about past or future attacks on the United States.

At the times of their deaths, the families questioned why they would commit suicide because it violated their Muslim faith. U.S. military investigators in 2008 ruled their deaths suicides by hanging.

The families had filed the lawsuit in a Washington federal court seeking unspecified damages. The Obama administration countered that it should be dismissed because the court had lacked jurisdiction over the prison for such claims.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle in a decision late on Tuesday granted the Obama administration’s request.

Lawyers for the families were not immediately available for comment.

President Barack Obama pledged in January 2009 to close the controversial prison within a year, arguing it has served as a recruiting symbol for anti-American militants. His efforts to shutter the facility have been hampered by legal and political hurdles.

There are still 192 detainees at the prison.

Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Eric Walsh

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