An autopsy to determine how Yemeni Guantanamo prisoner Adnan Latif died in September may shed light on a two-month mystery, and the Department of Defense now intends to publicly disclose the cause of his death, a department spokesman told Truthout Tuesday.
"We do not have an announced timeline but anticipate a COD (cause of death) announcement to be forthcoming," said Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Defense Department spokesman.
Last weekend, as first reported by Truthout, the US government turned over to the Yemen Embassy in Washington, DC a copy of the autopsy report into Latif's death. It was unknown at the time if it contained a cause and manner of death.
The Yemeni official told Truthout last Saturday evening the autopsy report was sent to Sana'a, Yemen's capital, and there were no immediate plans to release the contents of it or publicly comment on the autopsy report's conclusions.
The Yemeni official had told Truthout the month before that US officials appeared to have ruled out suicide as the manner of his death, as was originally reported.
When asked if he could confirm that suicide is not the manner of Latif's death listed on the autopsy report, Breasseale said he is not yet authorized to supply any details. Six of the nine reported deaths at Guantanmo were the result of suicide, according to Joint Task Force-Guantanamo, which runs the prison facility.
Breasseale previously told Truthout the Defense Department would not comment on the autopsy report's conclusions and instead would "defer to [Yemen] to make statements about their own people."
It's unclear why the Defense Department's position changed.
Meanwhile, Latif's remains continue to be held at Ramstein Air Force base in Germany and it's unknown if Yemen will accept his body, which was contingent upon the government receiving a copy of the autopsy report, as well as a copy of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service's (NCIS) report, into his death, estimated to take as long as a year to complete.
"That was the position from day one and to the best of my knowledge it hasn't changed, but we will see," the Yemeni official said.
The Yemen Post, however, citing unnamed sources, reported Tuesday that the Yemen government demanded Latif's body be immediately turned over and the remaining Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo, many of whom have already been cleared for release, transferred back to the country.
But the Yemeni official who spoke with Truthout said the Yemen Post report is "not correct."
"We don't have any updates yet in Sana'a," the official said, referring to questions pertaining to Latif's remains. "The ministers involved in this issue are with President [Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi] on his multi-leg tour."
Breasseale also would not discuss if and when Latif's remains will be turned over to Yemen.
"We remain in close cooperation with the government of Yemen and continue to carefully handle the body of Mr. Latif in the custom and culture of his faith," Breasseale said.
Latif's family, who has been waiting for more than two months to properly mourn his death, was advised they could pick up a copy of the autopsy report from Yemen's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, Sana'a is more than five hours away from their village and the family does not own a car.
Latif's brother, Muhammed, authorized his older brother's habeas attorney, David Remes, to accept a copy of the autopsy report on behalf of the family and email it to him at an Internet cafe. Briefed about the arrangement, Yemen Embassy officials told Remes on Monday they still have not received permission to release it.
Latif, who would have turned 37 in December, was detained in Guantanamo for more than a decade. He had been cleared for transfer back to Yemen by the Bush and Obama administrations four times between 2004 and 2010.
He died September 8, three months after the US Supreme Court declined to review his case. He suffered from neurological problems due to a severe head injury he sustained in a car accident in 1994 as previously reported in a lengthy Truthout expose about his life and tragic death.