WASHINGTON: Top terror suspect Abu Zubaydah told a US military tribunal he was tortured while in CIA custody, and now suffers seizures that affect his ability to speak and write, according to a transcript released on Monday.
In a lengthy hearing before the tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on March 27, Zubaydah denied associating with Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, despite having told interrogators that he had.
“Mr President and members of the tribunal, I would have liked to have spoken to you today on my own, but I have been having seizures lately, which have temporarily affected my ability to speak and write without difficulty,” he said in a written statement that was read by a military officer assigned to represent him.
Besides the seizures, Zubaydah told the tribunal he had problems with his left thigh and foot, according to a transcript released on Monday.
“Uh, I don’t like to admit I’m a sick person,” he said. “I try to be a good Muslim person but the truth is almost half of my body is not good.”
The Pentagon released a censored transcript of the proceeding, and references to what appeared to be details of his treatment at secret CIA detention facilities overseas were deleted.
But in a question-and-answer session, the tribunal’s presiding officer noted that Zubaydah “mentioned months of torture” in his written statement.
Zubaydah, who was wounded in a March 28, 2003 raid that ended in his capture, said most of the information related to what he was accused of having done had been extracted from him when he was half dead, “plus what they do torture me (sic).”
He said he had falsely told interrogators he was a partner of Osama bin Laden and of Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian captured entering the United States in December 1999 planning to bomb Millennium 2000 celebrations in the United States.
“So they write but they want what’s after, more information about more operations, so I can’t (sic),” he said. “They keep torturing me.”
Zubaydah said his greatest torment was the confiscation of a diary that he had kept, likening it to the loss of a child.
“For me, it is bigger than what CIA for me,” he said. “What they do on my body I will forget it, plus now taking the paper, my paper.”
Abu Zubaydah acknowledged facilitating the training of jihadists in Afghanistan to fight invaders of Muslim lands, but said his group only came under Osama bin Laden’s control in 2000 under pressure from the Taliban.
“Our doctrine has always been to go after enemy targets, and by that I mean military targets, which include the military members or civilians who work for or directly support the military,” Zubaydah said in a written statement.
“I disagreed with the Al-Qaeda philosophy of targeting innocent civilians like those in the World Trade Center,” he said.
Zubaydah is a Saudi-born Palestinian whose real name is Zayn Al Abidin Muhammad Husayn. The main evidence presented against him came from Ressam, the captured bomber.
Ressam said Zubayhdah knew about the millennium operation, although not specifically the date or the exact target of the bombing, the government alleged.
The government also alleged that entries in Zybaydah’s diary described plans to burn cities and farms in the United States, instigate race wars, attack gas stations and fuel trucks, and start timed fires.
Later in the article, Zubaydah claims he was only interested in “defensive jihad.”
Ressam allegedly told US investigators that in 1998 Zubaydah asked the Algerian to obtain five Canadian passports for a team of five other individuals to enter the United States to bomb several cities.
Zubaydah admitted to sending Ressam for training at the Khalden and Deronta camps in Afghanistan, but disputed other charges and instead portrayed his group as at odds ideologically with Al-Qaeda and competing with them for recruits.
“The statement that I was an associate of Osama bin Laden is false. I only met him in the year 2000. I’m not his partner and I’m not a member of Al-Qaeda,” Zubaydah said.
“Osama bin Laden wanted Al-Qaeda to have control of Khalden, but we refused since we had different ideas,” he said.
Zubaydah said his group’s aim was to train Muslims for “defensive jihad” in places like Bosnia and Chechnya that had been invaded by non Muslims.
“Our doctrine was not the same as what Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda were promoting, which was and is a doctrine of offensive jihad,” he said.
Zubaydah said he distinguished fundamentalist Muslims from fanatics.
“I was always very selective about not working with the fanatical Muslims that wanted training, such as the Algerians of the Armed Jamaat Islamia,” he said. “In fact, the Armed Jamaat Islamia threatened my life because I refused to work with them.”
In 2000 the Taliban closed the two training camps after Osama bin Laden pressed to have all recruits come through his camps, he said.
Zubaydah said he visited Osama bin Laden to ask for help in keeping the camps open, but was rebuffed.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Zubaydah said some big jihadist groups were angry that they had been given no warning. But they decided to close ranks with Al-Qaeda in anticipation of a counter-attack, he said.