Guantanamo’s oldest detainee, Saifullah Paracha, returns home to Pakistan

Guantanamo’s oldest detainee, Saifullah Paracha, returns home to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – A 75-year-old man from Pakistan who was the oldest prisoner in the Guantanamo Bay detention center was released and returned to Pakistan on Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad and the Department of Defense of the United States said.

Saifullah Paracha has been reunited with his family after more than 17 years in custody at the US base in Cuba, the ministry added.

Since 2003, Paracha had been arrested on suspicion of links with Al-Qaida, but was never charged with a crime. Last year in May, it was reported that he had been approved for release. He was released by the Prison Review Board, along with two other men in November 2020.

As is usual, the notification did not provide detailed reasoning for the decision and only concluded that Paracha is “not a continuing threat” to the United States, according to Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who represented him at his hearing at the moment

The DOD said in its statement on Saturday that the United States appreciates “the willingness of Pakistan and other partners to support ongoing US efforts focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately close the Guantanamo Bay facility.”

inmates stand together at a fence, one holding Islamic prayer beads
Paracha was released at 75.
Brennan Linsley / ASSOCIATED PRESS

In Pakistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had completed an extensive inter-agency process to facilitate Paracha’s repatriation.

“We are happy that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad has finally been reunited with his family,” the ministry said.

Paracha, who lived in the United States and owned property in New York City, was a wealthy businessman in Pakistan. Authorities say he was an al-Qaida “facilitator” who helped two of the conspirators in the 9/11 plot with a financial transaction.

He maintained that he did not know it was al-Qaida and denied any involvement in terrorism.

The United States captured Paracha in Thailand in 2003 and has held him at Guantanamo since September 2004. Washington has long asserted that it can hold detainees indefinitely without charge under international law of war.

In November 2020, Paracha, who suffers from several illnesses, including diabetes and a heart condition, made his eighth appearance before the review board, which was established under President Barack Obama to try to prevent the release of prisoners which the authorities think they can commit. in anti-US hostility after his release from Guantanamo.

At the time, her attorney, Sullivan-Bennis, said she was more optimistic about her prospects because of the election of President Joe Biden, Paracha’s ill health and developments in a legal case. involving his son, Uzair Paracha.

The son was convicted in 2005 in New York federal court of providing support to terrorism, based in part on the testimony of the same witnesses held in Guantanamo that the United States relied on to justify keeping the father.

In March 2020, after a judge threw out those witness accounts and the US government decided not to seek a new trial, young Paracha was released and returned to Pakistan.

In its statement on the repatriation of the former Paracha, the DOD said that 35 detainees remained at Guantanamo Bay on Saturday, and that 20 of them are eligible for transfer.

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