Pakistan: The oldest prisoner freed from Guantanamo returns home

ISLAMABAD – A 75-year-old man from Pakistan who is the oldest prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center was released and returned to Pakistan on Saturday, the foreign ministry said.

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

Paracha has been detained on suspicion of ties to al-Qaida since 2003, but has never been charged. Last year, in May, he was informed that he had been approved for exit. He was cleared by the prisoner review board, along with two other men in November 2020.

As is customary, the notice did not provide a detailed reason for the decision and only concluded that Paracha was “not a continuing threat” to the United States, according to Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who represented him at the hearing. hearing at that time.

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

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

Paracha, who lives in the United States and owns property in New York City, is a wealthy businessman in Pakistan. Authorities accused him of being an al-Qaida “supporter” who helped two of the masterminds in the September 11 plot make a financial transaction.

He insisted that he did not know they were al-Qaida and denied any involvement in terrorism.

The US captured the Paracels in Thailand in 2003 and has held him at Guantanamo since September 2004. Washington has long asserted that it can detain him indefinitely without charge under international law of war. .

In November 2020, Paracha, who suffers from a number of conditions, including diabetes and heart disease, appeared for the eighth time before the review panel, set up under President Barack Obama to try to prevent the release prisoners the authorities believe may be involved. in hostilities against the US after they were liberated from Guantanamo.

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

The son was convicted in 2005 in federal court in New York for aiding terrorism, based in part on testimonies from the same witnesses detained at Guantanamo on which the United States relied to justify his murder. keep father.

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


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