The first CIA captive subjected to harsh interrogation after the Sept. 11 attacks did not testify Friday about conditions inside the Guantanamo Bay detention center after a late-night discussion with his lawyers, who did not want him to take the stand.
It would have been the first time terror suspect Zayne Abu Zubaydah had spoken publicly since he was captured in 2002. He has never been charged. In August 2003, he was subjected to 83 rounds of waterboarding, an interrogation practice that simulates drowning.
Zubaydah had expressed a desire to be a witness at a court hearing for fellow detainee Ramzi Binalshibh, who is one of five Guantanamo prisoners facing trial by a military commission for their alleged roles in planning and providing logistical support for the Sept. 11 attacks.
Binalshibh has accused guards of causing noises and vibrations intended to disrupt his sleep and making it difficult for him to participate in his legal case, and his lawyer wanted Zubaydah to testify about how detainees have been treated.
"His attorneys have advised him not to testify," James Harrington, a civilian lawyer appointed to represent Binalshibh, told Army Col. James Pohl, the judge presiding over the hearing. "The decision last night ... was not made until the last minute."
Zubaydah, 46, was captured in Pakistan in March 2002. When he was captured, authorities suspected he was a high-ranking member of al-Qaida, though they have more recently described him in official documents as only a "facilitator" for the terror network. He has been held at Guantanamo since September 2006.
Earlier this month, Zubaydah's lawyer, Mark Denbeaux, said his client would take the stand "unafraid of the truth that will emerge, confident that the world will come to know that he has committed no crimes." But in a statement on Friday, he said that government prosecutors made it impossible for his client to testify because what he said could be used against him if he is ever tried.
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"The government sought not truth, but stacked the deck in a way that made it impossible for my client to be presented fairly and accurately," Denbeaux's law firm said in a statement. "For those reasons, we have respectfully abstained from taking part in this dog and pony show."