Abu Zubaydah, Tortured Guantánamo Detainee, Makes Case for Release

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from The New York Times,

After 14 years of detention, Abu Zubaydah, the suspected terrorist brutally tortured after his capture in 2002, appeared for the first time at a Guantánamo Bay hearing on Tuesday morning and said he should be released because he posed no threat.

Through an anonymous soldier who read a summary of his views under convoluted Defense Department rules, Mr. Zubaydah declared that he “has no desire or intent to harm the United States or any other country.” He said he would like to be reunited with his family and “has some seed money that could be used to start a business after he is reintegrated into society.”

Video of the 17-minute open part of the hearing was streamed to a Pentagon conference room where a dozen reporters and human rights advocates were allowed to watch. It was a landmark of a sort: the hearing was the first time that members of the public other than his lawyers had been allowed to see him since his capture after being badly injured in a shootout in Pakistan in March 2002.

Mr. Zubaydah, now 45, did not speak during the unclassified part of the hearing, called a Periodic Review Board. He had another opportunity to speak or answer questions during the closed, classified part of the hearing, which followed the open session and was expected to last for several hours. If he gives his approval, a redacted transcript of the classified part of the hearing will be made public, probably in about a month.

Dressed in a white tunic, Mr. Zubaydah, whose mental stability has been questioned by some American officials, listened calmly and attentively but showed no reaction as officials read various statements. He did not wear the patch that in earlier photographs covered his damaged left eye, injured at some point after his capture, but the patch hung from a strap around his neck. He wore one pair of glasses and switched to another pair to read a document.

Born in Saudi Arabia to a family of Palestinian background, Mr. Zubaydah became a sort of travel agent, camp administrator and facilitator for militant fighters in Afghanistan in the early 1990s, after the ragtag force of Islamic soldiers known as the mujahedeen forced the Soviet Army out of the country.

But when he was shot and taken into American custody six months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he was the first significant suspect captured in an increasingly desperate global C.I.A. manhunt. At the time, American intelligence officials wrongly concluded that he was a top-ranking leader of Al Qaeda who might have knowledge of forthcoming plots.

That mistaken belief was one reason C.I.A. officials, advised by two military psychologists who had no experience conducting interrogations, decided to use extreme physical force to try to break him. The decision followed a productive, traditional interrogation by F.B.I. agents, who believed Mr. Zubaydah was cooperating and thought the harsh measures unnecessary and unjustified.

He was the first prisoner to be subjected to waterboarding — 83 times water was poured over a cloth covering his mouth and nose to give him the feeling of drowning, as records later would show.

But Mr. Zubaydah told his personal representatives — two members of the military assigned to speak with him — that he had no intention of committing terrorist acts. He “repeatedly said that the Islamic State is out of control and has gone too far,” the personal representatives said in their statement.

One of his lawyers, Joseph Margulies, a professor of law and government at Cornell, who did not attend the hearing, said that in their conversations Mr. Zubaydah “has always been completely honest.”

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