LONDON: Lithuania has paid $113,000 in compensation to a man subjected to torture by the CIA at a secret location outside the capital Vilnius.
Zayn Al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, also known as Abu Zubaydah, came to be known as the “forever prisoner” due to his two-decade-long detention by the US, despite never being charged with a crime.
In May 2018, the European Court of Human Rights ordered the Lithuanian government to pay compensation for violating European laws banning the use of torture.
Though the money has now been transferred to a bank account, Abu Zubaydah, 50, cannot receive it because he remains in Guantanamo Bay prison and his assets are still frozen by the US treasury. A similar freeze on assets was lifted two years ago by the UN.
Abu Zubaydah’s lawyers believe it is highly unlikely that Lithuania would have made the compensation payment without approval from Washington.
“The situation is a lot less incommunicado when you pay €100,000 to someone and the whole world knows about it,” Mark Denbeaux, one of Abu Zubaydah’s legal team based in the US, told The Guardian.
“This move is consistent with the idea that the US is softening its position on the detention of the forever prisoners. The US could clearly have kept Lithuania from handing over this money and the question is, why didn’t they?”
The pay-out comes just months before the 20-year anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay prison.
Abu Zubaydah was captured by US forces in Pakistan six months after the 9/11 terror attacks. The CIA and Bush administration lawyers justified his torture and detention by claiming he was a senior Al-Qaeda figure — claims that were later debunked.
In his case against Lithuania, the European Court of Human Rights heard that he was held at a CIA black site in the country from February 2005 to March 2006. The site, codenamed Violet, was on the outskirts of Vilnius.
While the worst of his torture was carried out in Thailand, his lawyers said, he also experienced the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the Baltic country.
He was waterboarded — a type of simulated drowning — at least 83 times in August 2002, as well as placed in a coffin-sized box for days on end.
Judges heard that the interrogation techniques he was subjected to — including waterboarding, sensory and sleep deprivation, solitary confinement, loud noise and harsh light — amounted to torture.