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Suspected terrorist tortured by US to discover fate

Abu Zubaydah has been held by the US government by 20 years without trial with his best chance of release taking place this week.

The Supreme Court is holding in-person arguments for the first time since the start of the covid-19 pandemic.
Kevin DietschAFP

Who is Abu Zubaydah?

Zubaydah, real name Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, was in his 20s when he was captured in Pakistan. He has never been charged with a crime and has been passed around so-called 'CIA black sites' in Poland and the notorious Guantanamo Bay. He has been in the prison for 14 years.

Government documents show he was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, also losing an eye to his captors. His case for release has been pending for 14 years.

Why is the US holding him?

It was previously thought that Zubaydah was a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda. However, a Senate torture report later found that the CIA had "significantly overstated" Zubaydah's role in the organization. The CIA's assumption about Mr Zubaydah's power within al-Qaeda "simply wasn't true" said John Kiriakou, a CIA whistleblower who revealed in 2007 the extent of the crimes being committed by US agents in the name of national security.

The case is expected to last until June of next year before a verdict has been decided. Without an ability to testify against his captors, Zubaydah has little chance of release in the face of huge government pressure.

Kiriakou said that for years the intelligence community "has relied on state secrets to get out of situations they find uncomfortable".

How is the US government trying to defend itself?

The US is denying the accused a chance to testify about his torture at the hands of the CIA. Some of the justices at the center of the case have queried why he is not able to. Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor are also questioning why Zubaydah remains at Guantanamo.

"I don't understand why he is still there," Breyer said.

"We want a clear answer," Sotomayor added.

The US government has admitted that Zubaydah was held overseas and interrogated using "enhanced interrogation techniques", the government phrase for torture, but has not revealed the locations of where this took place.

The crux of the US government defense is that national security would be at risk if it disclosed the location of Zubaydah's torture. However, it is an open secret that he was held in Poland. The European Court of Human Rights determined that Zubaydah was held there in 2002 and 2003. The argument that he cannot testify because of the threat to national security has been lambasted by legal critics.

The CIA had previously misled the US government by not admitting its horrific treatment of captives post-9/11.


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