CIA torture prisoner makes case for Gitmo release in first public appearance in 14 years

Abu Zubaydah © wikipedia.org
A Guantanamo detainee, who the CIA tortured as a suspected top leader of Al-Qaeda but never officially charged, has made his case for release. Abu Zubaydah appeared in public for the first time in 14 years of his detention.

His first-ever hearing was made via video feed from Washington’s Cuba-based prison and on his behalf. Addressing a Periodic Review Board through a uniformed soldier who read his message, Zubaydah said that he “has no desire or intent to harm the United States or any other country.”

“He has been respectful to us in all of our meetings and dealings with him, and he has come to believe that he might have a chance to leave Guantanamo through this process,” his opening statement reads.

He said he would want “to be reunited with his family” while also “begin the process of recovering from injuries he sustained during his capture” in Pakistan in 2002.

“He has some seed money that could be used to start a business after he is reintegrated into society and is living a peaceful life,” his representative read.

A Saudi-born Palestinian, Zubaydah is one of three men that the CIA has admitted to have waterboarded at an unknown prison in Thailand.

According to the so-called “torture report” released in 2014, Zubaydah was the first prisoner to endure the harsh CIA interrogation program.

After Zubaydah was turned over to US custody, he was subjected to 83 waterboarding sessions, the torture technique that creates the sensation of drowning. He was also placed in a coffin-sized box for a total of 266 hours (11 days, two hours) over a 20-day period. Additionally, he was forced to remain in another small confinement box (21 inches wide, 2.5 feet in length) for 29 hours.

After being brutally interrogated, Zubaydah was transported to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where he remains today.

Two former CIA psychologists, and creators of the CIA torture program, admitted that Zubaydah was also stripped naked, confined and that his cell was lit by halogen lamps 24 hours a day for a period of time.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Washington falsely believed that Zubaydah was a key Al-Qaeda leader in the lead-up to the attacks. Since then, his status in US documents reportedly changed to a "well-known al-Qaeda facilitator.”

According to his profile, he also “possibly” knew about bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the USS Cole bombing in 2000.

However, despite 14 years passing since his brutal capture, Zubaydah has not been officially charged.

It us up to the Periodic Review Board to decide whether a prisoner would pose a danger if released. The decision on his transfer is expected in about 30 days.

Until this Tuesday’s hearing, Zubaydah has not made a single public appearance and has only been seen by his lawyer.

The open statement in a Pentagon room lasted reportedly for less than 20 minutes and was followed by a classified part of it. Zubaydah decided he did not want a transcript of his secret hearing being publicly released.

Hearings at the Periodic Review Board have been held more often recently as the Obama administration is trying to stand by the president’s pledge to close Guantanamo by the end of this presidential term. Unable to shut down President George W. Bush’s facility due to opposition from Congress and the military, Obama has been pushing to transfer out detainees cleared for release.

Last week saw the largest single release of 15 prisoners, all of whom were sent to the United Arab Emirates.

There are currently 61 captives remaining in the Guantanamo Bay.