Law office says defense lawyer’s death not linked to Guantánamo

An Ohio public defender who was part of a team that represents Guantánamo detainees died last week but had not been to the base for months, his office said Friday.

Federal Public Defender Andy P. Hart, 38, was among several dozen lawyers who urged Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to intervene in the ongoing hunger strike at the U.S. prison camps in southeast Cuba in a letter dated March 14.

He died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot April 25.

His colleagues said in a statement that his death is a “tragedy” that “is unrelated to Guantánamo or to his other work in our office.”

“Andy passed away in Ohio last week. The last time he traveled to Guantánamo was in early January,” said Carlos Warner for the office of Dennis Terez, the federal public defender for the Northern District of Ohio in an email to The Miami Herald. Terez’s office represents 11 Guantánamo detainees, some of them hunger strikers, which has prompted questions about the death.

“This is a private, personal matter and we ask that the matter remain private during this difficult time,” the statement said.

The Miami Herald contacted Terez’s office after items published on the Internet suggested the death occurred at the U.S. Navy base or was somehow related to the ongoing hunger strike at the prison there. The firm said there was no such link.

On Friday, the military at Guantánamo reported that the hunger strike count remained at 100 prisoners, a figure the prison had arrived at Saturday.

Three were getting force feedings at the detention center hospital, although none had life-threatening conditions, said Army Lt. Col. Samuel House, a prison spokesman. Twenty others were getting the up-to twice daily nasogastric feedings inside the different prison buildings where the captives are kept.

Related stories from Miami Herald