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Russian Detainee Dies in US Immigration Custody  

FILE - The "B" cell and bunk unit of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, is seen in a Oct. 17, 2008, photo.

After nearly a year in detention, a months-long hunger strike, and a deportation order, 40-year-old Mergensana Amar died in U.S. immigration custody this month.

He was removed from life support 10 days after he was found unconscious in his cell at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, and seven days after his last glimmer of brain activity.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Monday that the Russia native died of "anoxic brain injury due to asphyxiation," the agency reported this week. Washington's Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Amar's death suicide by hanging.

Amar was found in his cell on Nov. 15, and was declared brain dead on Nov. 18, according to ICE. He remained on life support until Nov. 24, however ICE has listed his official date of death as Nov. 18.

Amar entered the U.S. without proper documentation, according to ICE. He was on a hunger strike from August until Oct. 16, protesting his detention and imminent deportation, scheduled for November.

In an October interview during the hunger strike, Amar told local news website CrossCut that he was from Buryatia, Russia, and that he sought asylum after arriving at the southwest port of entry at San Ysidro, California, last December.

He told the outlet that skinheads in Russia beat and threatened him, and that he had also been jailed for his activism in favor of Buryatia's independence. VOA has not independently verified these claims.

The Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., has not replied to a request for comment made Wednesday on Amar's death. His next of kin has been notified, according to ICE.

Amar's death is the 11th in ICE detention this year.

An inmate dying in immigration custody is rare — the agency detains more than 100,000 people annually. But human rights groups say health care is inadequate in ICE facilities. A report this summer alleged that lack of care can lead to untimely deaths.