A Palestinian held at the Guantanamo detention center has accused U.S. government intelligence agents of torturing him while he was held at secret prisons elsewhere in recent years, and says he made false confessions to his interrogators to get them to stop the torture. The allegation came in the transcript released Monday of a hearing the detainee had at Guantanamo three weeks ago. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
According to the Defense Department transcript, the detainee known as Abu Zubaydah (Zayn al Abidin Muhammad Husayn) told a panel of U.S. military officers he was tortured by agents of the Central Intelligence Agency because they thought he was a partner of the al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden. Officials removed most details of the alleged torture from the transcript, but Abu Zubaydah charged that his physical treatment exacerbated serious injuries he had suffered in 1992.
In addition, he charged that the CIA interrogators promised to return his diary to him and then did not, which he said affected him emotionally and triggered seizures.
Abu Zubaydah said he told the interrogators he was working with Osama Bin Laden just so they would stop torturing him.
Responding to Abu Zubaydah's charge, CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said the United States "does not conduct or condone torture." He said the agency's terrorist interrogation program is implemented lawfully, and has produced information that has "disrupted terrorist plots and saved innocent lives."
Abu Zubaydah said he has not been mistreated since he arrived at the U.S. military-run detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba with 13 other men in September. The U.S. Defense Department calls these men "high value detainees."
The U.S. military says Abu Zubaydah managed a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and helped transfer more than half a million dollars to Osama Bin Laden. It also says he had plans in his diary for attacks on civilian targets in the United States.
At the hearing, Abu Zubaydah denied being part of Bin Laden's organization and said the plans in his diary were only ideas. He said he did not manage the training camps, but did operate a guest house where fighters stopped on their way to and from one training camp.
Abu Zubaydah told the panel he opposes attacks on civilian targets, and that his view put him at odds with Bin Laden. He said he believes the September 11, 2001 attacks against civilians at the New York World Trade Center were not in keeping with Islamic Law on Jihad. But he said after the attacks, he was ready to help defend Afghanistan against the U.S.-led invasion.
The Palestinian, who was raised in Saudi Arabia, said he has been an enemy of the United States since he was a child because of its support for Israel. But he said he considers himself an enemy only of the U.S. government and military, not the American people. He said he is not an enemy combatant and never conducted or financed any operation against the United States.
The hearing Abu Zubaydah had late last month is designed to help determine officially whether he is an 'enemy combatant.' Another hearing was to be held in secret to review classified evidence and the final decision will be made by senior officials at the Pentagon. All Guantanamo detainees have such hearings, as well as annual reviews of their status.
Hundreds of detainees have been released as a result of these proceedings. Those who are found to be 'enemy combatants' remain at Guantanamo and could be charged, tried and sentenced by the U.S. military under a new procedure approved last year by the Congress.