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Judge rejects lawsuit over 2 dead Gitmo detainees

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[February 17, 2010]  WASHINGTON (AP) -- A judge has dealt a setback to the families of two Guantanamo Bay detainees in a lawsuit that alleges former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. military officers and medical personnel were responsible for the detainees' deaths.

The case alleging unlawful treatment of former prisoners Yasser Al-Zahrani and Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed Al-Salami is barred by the Military Commissions Act of 2006, U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle ruled Tuesday.

Al-Zahrani and Al-Salami were among three men who allegedly committed suicide on the night of June 9, 2006. They were found hanging in their cells at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

A recent article in Harper's magazine by an attorney who long has worked on detainee issues suggests the three prisoners were transported by guards from their cells hours before their deaths to a secret facility on the island.

The families of the dead men have been seeking damages under the Alien Tort Claims Act, alleging arbitrary detention, torture, cruel and inhuman treatment, violations of the Geneva Conventions, and cruel and unusual punishment.

The judge said the two detainees were properly determined by the U.S. military to be enemy combatants.

Citing an appeals court decision, Huvelle said judicial involvement in the "delicate area" of how detainees are treated could undermine military and diplomatic efforts by the U.S. government on the terrorism front.

Al-Zahrani, 22 years old when he died, was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001 and he was 17 years old when he was transferred to Guantanamo in 2002, according to the suit by the men's families.

Al-Salami was arrested by local forces in Pakistan in March 2002.

Al-Zahrani was from Saudi Arabia. Al-Salami was from Yemen.

[Associated Press; By PETE YOST]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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