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Oldest prisoner released from Guantanamo Bay

Oldest prisoner released from Guantanamo Bay

The prisoner was reunited with his family after almost two decades

Guantanamo Bay's oldest prisoner has returned to Pakistan after being released from the detention camp in Cuba.

Saifullah Paracha was living in the US and owned property in New York City when he became suspected of having ties to the extremist group Al-Qaeda.

A wealthy businessman in Pakistan, authorities alleged Paracha was a 'facilitator' who helped two of the conspirators in the plot for the 11 September attacks with a financial transaction.

Paracha denied knowing that the conspirators were with Al-Qaeda and refuted allegations of being involved in terrorism, but he was captured by the US in Thailand in 2003 and taken to Guantanamo Bay to be held from September 2004.

Despite being held for almost two decades, Paracha was never charged with a crime, however Washington has asserted that it can hold detainees indefinitely without charge under the international laws of war.

Paracha was held at Guantanamo Bay for more than 17 years.
Friedrich Stark / Alamy Stock Photo

In November 2020, Paracha, in his 70s, appeared for the eighth time before the review board which was established under former President Barack Obama in a bid to try to prevent the release of prisoners who authorities believed could engage in anti-US hostilities once free.

The prisoner now suffers from a number of ailments, including diabetes and a heart condition.

Paracha's lawyer Shelby Sullivan-Bennis said at the time she was more optimistic he would be released due to the election of now-President Joe Biden, as well as matters of Paracha's declining health and developments in a legal case which involved his son Uzair Paracha.

In 2005, Uzair was convicted in New York of providing support to terrorism based in part on evidence from the same witnesses who the US had used as justification to hold Paracha at Guantanamo.

However, a judge threw out those witness accounts in March 2020, and Uzair was released.

Paracha was never charged with a crime.

The review board ultimately cleared Paracha for release, determining that he is 'not a continuing threat' to the US, Sullivan-Bennis explained. He finally left the detention centre at the age of 75.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it had completed an extensive inter-agency process to facilitate Mr Paracha’s repatriation, and added in a statement: “We are glad that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad is finally reunited with his family."

The US Department of Defense said in a statement that the country appreciates 'the willingness of Pakistan and other partners to support ongoing US efforts focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing the Guantanamo Bay facility.'

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock/Shutterstock

Topics: Terrorism, US News, World News, Crime