Guantánamo

Prisoner not seen since CIA capture may appear at Guantánamo war court

Zayn al Abdeen Mohammed al Hussein, a Palestinian known as Abu Zubaydah, in a Department of Defense photo provided to McClatchy Newspapers by the anti-secrecy Wikileaks group.
Zayn al Abdeen Mohammed al Hussein, a Palestinian known as Abu Zubaydah, in a Department of Defense photo provided to McClatchy Newspapers by the anti-secrecy Wikileaks group. MCT

A Palestinian not seen publicly since his 2002 capture and brutal interrogation by the CIA may soon make his first appearance in a U.S. courtroom, the war court at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Abu Zubaydah, whose real name is Zayn al Abdeen Mohammed al Hussein, has been called as a witness by a defendant in the Sept. 11 war crimes case to describe conditions inside the Camp 7 prison at Guantánamo Bay, where 15 former CIA captives are kept. He could testify at a pretrial hearing at the U.S. base in Cuba next week.

A Senate report found that the Saudi-born Palestinian was the first prisoner subjected to a harsh CIA interrogation program now widely regarded as torture. He has never been charged with a crime.

In February, alleged 9/11 plot lieutenant Ramzi bin al Shibh, a Yemeni, testified that someone in control of Camp 7 is intentionally, systematically making noise and vibrations in a campaign of sleep deprivation. He specifically named “Abu Zubaydah” as someone who would back up his story. Prosecutors deny that, if there’s noise, it’s intentional. More likely, prosecutor Clay Trivett said, Bin al Shibh was “lying ... fighting the jihad against the guards in the camp.”

Bin al Shibh’s attorney, Jim Harrington, told the Associated Press Wednesday that the Palestinian captive has “experienced the same kind of thing that Ramzi has with the noises and vibration.”

Said Abu Zubaydah attorney Mark Denbeaux” “I think it’s a huge deal if for nothing else to observe what he’s like as a person, which is pretty gentle and normal.” Denbeaux is a law professor at Seton Hall University who has represented several Guantánamo detainees.

In 2011, prosecutors screened a pre-capture video of the man known as Abu Zubaydah at the war court in the case of a confessed small-arms instructor from Sudan who has since been repatriated.

The five alleged conspirators in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people are due at the court for a week of pretrial hearings. The military judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, has said he’ll hold court on Memorial Day.

Additional reading

Miami Herald factbox about Abu Zubaydah here.

Read more about the Sept. 11 war crimes tribunal here.

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