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Terror detainee falsely held, lawyers say

  • Story Highlights
  • Lawyers say Abu Zubaydah is not a member of al Qaeda and did not try to harm U.S.
  • Zubaydah captured in Pakistan in March 2002
  • FBI agent says Zubaydah was a sort of travel agent for al Qaeda
  • U.S. says at time of his arrest, Zubaydah was planning terror attack in Israel
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From Carol Cratty
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Lawyers for one of the administration's most prized detainees in the war on terror are challenging their client's detention as unlawful -- contending he was never a member of al Qaeda and never tried to harm Americans.

Alleged terrorist Abu Zubaydah is being unjustifiably detained at Guantanamo Bay, his lawyers say.

The prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, is one of three detainees upon whom the United States has admitted using waterboarding, or simulated drowning, during interrogation.

His lawyers are contesting Zubaydah's six years of detention and filed a lengthy petition last month with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. That filing was unsealed Monday.

In the filing, his lawyers say Zubaydah is not an enemy combatant and is "not a member of either the Taliban or al Qaeda" and that he "did not cause or attempt to cause any harm to American personnel or property" before his March 2002 capture in Pakistan. He initially was held by the CIA in secret facilities.

The filing also quotes former FBI agent Daniel Coleman as describing Zubaydah as a sort of travel agent for al Qaeda who "knew very little about real operations." Coleman is also quoted as calling the alleged terrorist insane.

The legal document says Zubaydah "has not been afforded any procedures that would satisfy even the most basic notions of due process" and complains about his treatment during severe interrogation sessions at CIA facilities overseas.

Zubaydah and other high-value detainees were transferred to the Pentagon's custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in September 2006.

One of Zubaydah's lawyers, Brent Mickum, said the government did not respond to any requests for classified information to support claims that Zubaydah is a terrorist.

Mickum and fellow lawyer Joseph Margulies had to base everything in the court filing on what is available in the public record, including numerous references to Zubaydah in the news media and in books.

After filing the petition challenging Zubaydah's detention, Mickum and Margulies traveled to Guantanamo and met Zubaydah for the first time in late February. Mickum said he's not allowed to talk about the substance of the discussions with his client or his physical condition. The legal team plans to return for a second meeting in April.

The United States has maintained Zubaydah was an important al Qaeda logistics handler.

In documents released at the time of his transfer to Guantanamo Bay, the government said he was recruited by Osama bin Laden to be a senior al Qaeda travel facilitator but that he later was a director at one of al Qaeda's training camps.

The documents said he was trained in the use of explosives and the art of forgery. The government also said at the time of his capture that Zubaydah "was trying to organize a terrorist attack in Israel." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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