After six years, Abu Zubaydah meets lawyers

posted on February 28, 2008 | in Category U.S.A. | PermaLink

By Carol Rosenberg Source: The Miami Herald URL: [link] Date: February 27, 2008 After six years, al Qaeda suspect meets lawyers

Alleged arch-terrorist Abu Zubaydah, whom the CIA waterboarded in secret overseas interrogations, has agreed to let two American attorneys challenge his detention. Chicago law professor Joseph Margulies and Washington, D.C. lawyer Brent Mickum said Tuesday that they secured the authority in 12 hours of meetings Friday and Monday at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. It was the first time a defense attorney has been allowed to see the captive, who once ran a military training camp in Afghanistan, in nearly six years of U.S. detention. He was captured, severely wounded, in a March 2002 firefight at an alleged al Qaeda safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan. He disappeared into years of secret detention, out of Red Cross reach, until President Bush announced his transfer to Guantánamo in September 2006.Recently, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, an Air Force general, confirmed that agents used the simulated form of drowning that human rights advocates call ''water torture'' to force him to spill secrets to his captors.

A senior CIA official later instructed a Bangkok, Thailand, station chief to destroy videos of his interrogations -- now the subject of a Justice Department investigation.

In September 2006, Bush said Abu Zubaydah disclosed under interrogation the identity of the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks -- fellow Guantánamo detainee Khalid Sheik Mohammed. The president said, once broken, Abu Zubaydah fingered other at-large al Qaeda members, leading to their capture and ``also provided information that helped stop a terrorist attack being planned for inside the United States.''

Abu Zubaydah is the second ''high-value detainee'' to meet with defense lawyers. In both cases, the attorneys are offering their services free of charge.

Margulies said that ground rules for the meeting permitted him to disclose only that ''a meeting took place,'' the captive is held ''in a place called Camp 7'' and he had ''no objections'' to the Pentagon's access provided during the Thursday to Monday visit to the base.


Margulies and Mickum are seeking to challenge Abu Zubaydah's designation as ''enemy combatant'' through a federal appeals court panel under a limited appeals process set up by Congress.

''The hypocrisy that we cannot discuss Zubaydah's treatment, but the government can admit to waterboarding him and claim that it is legal is rather astounding,'' said Mickum on Tuesday.

Their client's full name is Zayn Abidin Abu Zubaydah and, according to a White House fact sheet released in September 2006, he was recruited to the fight by Osama bin Laden -- and had ties to Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the al Qaeda of Iraq founder who was killed in a 2006 U.S. airstrike.

It said he was ``not believed to be directly linked to the attacks on 11 September 2001.''


In transcripts of a March 2007 hearing at Guantánamo, Abu Zubaydah described himself as not an acolyte of bin Laden but a rival -- whose ideological version of Islamic holy war forbade 9/11-style attacks on civilians.

Margulies, who is a professor at Northwestern Law School, is a seasoned Guantánamo defense attorney both in the civilian and military arenas.

In 2006 he published Guantánamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power.

Mickum has likewise represented detainees since freed from Guantánamo, including former British resident Bishar Rawi, who was released after disclosure that he had worked as an informant for the British intelligence agency MI5.

Separately Tuesday, the supervisor of the military commission system approved charges against Yemeni captive Ali Hamza al Bahlul, whom the military alleges worked as Bin Laden's ''media secretary'' as well as bodyguard.

Once Bahlul is handed the charges at Guantánamo, a 30-day clock starts toward his arraignment, unless his attorney, Col. James Sawyers, receives a delay from the military judge.

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