A senior Pentagon official has denied a request for immunity to former CIA prisoner Abu Zubaydah.
Defense lawyers want Zayn al Abdeen Mohammed al Hussein — that’s his real name — to testify in the 9/11 case pretrial proceedings to bolster their claim that somebody is intentionally causing disruptions at the clandestine Camp 7 prison. Alleged Sept. 11 plotter Ramzi bin al Shibh, 44, has been complaining of noises and vibrations there for years; he calls it harassment that prevents him from preparing for his death-penalty trial.
Zubaydah, as he is known, functions as a Camp 7 block leader, and has special insight into the conditions at the prison, said Bin al Shibh’s attorney, Jim Harrington. On June 2, guards brought Zubaydah, 45, to the door of the war court for what was to be the first public view of the man who was subjected to the worst of the worst of CIA “black site” interrogations. But his military lawyer, Navy Cmdr. Patrick Flor, objected to his testifying without immunity.
Harrington said the overseer of the war court, Convening Authority Paul Oostburg-Sanz, subsequently denied a request for the special, limited protected status. Oostburg-Sanz concluded Zubaydah’s testimony would be “cumulative,” said Harrington, essentially redundant to what Bin al Shibh testified about in February and to fellow captive Hassan Guleed’s testimony in June.
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Harrington added that he would ask the trial judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, to revisit Oostburg-Sanz’s decision. Pohl has the authority to overrule him.
“It’s not redundant. Abu Zubaydah fulfills a different role within the tier. He’s the mediator,” said Harrington, a Pentagon-paid death penalty defender. “He tries to work out problems with the camp commander and the watch commanders and the detainees, and he’s very good at it. He’s had conversations and other interactions about Ramzi’s problems that need to be testified about.”
Zubaydah is one of six former black site captives the CIA delivered to Guantánamo in September 2006 who have never been charged with crimes. So he’s entitled to a Periodic Review Board hearing, which decides whether to continue holding a Guantánamo detainee or recommend his transfer to another country with security arrangements that satisfy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Camp 7 captives go before the federal board next month. His hearing is Aug. 23.
The Pentagon’s chief prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, declined to comment on whether he had offered an opinion to Oostburg-Sanz on the request for so-called “use immunity.”
The next 9/11 hearing that could take up the issue of immunity is Oct. 3-14. “We are considering our options,” said one of Zubaydah’s lawyers, Joe Margulies, by email, leaving open the possibility that the first captive to disappear to the CIA’s black sites might come to court even without immunity.