U.S. releases Guantanamo’s oldest prisoner after nearly 18 years

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The oldest prisoner on the Guantanamo Bay detention heart was launched and “reunited along with his household” in Pakistan, the nation’s overseas ministry stated in an announcement Saturday.

Saifullah Paracha, 75, had been held on suspicion of ties to Al Qaeda since 2003, however he was by no means charged with against the law throughout the greater than 17 years he was detained on the U.S. base in Cuba, in accordance with Reprieve, a authorized charity that represents him and has campaigned for his launch.

“We’re glad {that a} Pakistani citizen detained overseas is lastly reunited along with his household,” the assertion stated. It stated the International Ministry had “accomplished an intensive interagency course of” to facilitate his repatriation.

The Pentagon stated in an announcement Saturday that Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin had “notified Congress of his intent to repatriate Saifullah Paracha to Pakistan” final month.

It additionally praised the willingness of Pakistan and different companions to help “ongoing U.S. efforts centered on responsibly decreasing the detainee inhabitants and in the end closing the Guantanamo Bay facility.”

Paracha was notified in Might 2021 that he had been authorised for launch by the prisoner evaluation board, Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who represented him at his November 2020 listening to, informed The Related Press on the time.

It was his eighth look, in accordance with the evaluation board’s web site. The evaluation board was established below former President Barack Obama to attempt to stop the discharge of prisoners who authorities believed may have interaction in anti-U.S. hostilities upon their launch from Guantanamo.

As is customary, the notification didn’t present detailed reasoning for the choice and concluded solely that Paracha is “not a seamless menace” to the US, Sullivan-Bennis informed the AP.

As soon as a rich businessman who lived within the U.S. and owned property in New York Metropolis, Paracha was captured in 2003 in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok.

He was accused of being an Al Qaeda “facilitator” who helped two of the conspirators within the 9/11 plot with a monetary transaction.

Paracha stated he didn’t know the lads had been Al Qaeda and has all the time denied any involvement in terrorism and the occasions of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists from the Islamic militant group crashed planes into the Twin Towers of the World Commerce Middle in New York and the Pentagon. Heroic passengers aboard one other airplane fought terrorists and prevented it from reaching Washington.

Paracha was then transferred to the U.S.-run Bagram airbase in Afghanistan earlier than he was taken to Guantanamo in 2004, in accordance with Reprieve.

Washington has lengthy asserted that it could possibly maintain detainees indefinitely with out cost below the worldwide legal guidelines of warfare.

“Saifullah is returning to his household as a frail outdated man, having been taken from them within the prime of his life. That injustice can by no means be rectified,” Maya Foa, the chief director of Reprieve, informed NBC Information through Twitter on Saturday.

“The Biden administration deserves some credit score for expediting the discharge of Guantánamo detainees who had been by no means charged with against the law, however the U.S.’ embrace of indefinite detention with out trial has accomplished lasting injury,” she stated.

Paracha’s son, Uzair Paracha, was convicted in 2005 in federal court docket in New York of offering help to terrorism, primarily based partially on testimony from the identical witnesses held at Guantanamo whom the U.S. relied on to justify holding the daddy.

In March 2020, after a decide threw out these witness accounts and the U.S. authorities determined to not search a brand new trial, the youthful Paracha was launched and despatched again to Pakistan.

Nearly 800 males and boys have been unlawfully detained at Guantanamo because it was opened by the Bush White Home in 2002, in accordance with the American Civil Liberties Union. This has not been confirmed by authorities officers.

The ACLU additionally alleges that many detainees had been subjected to torture and different brutal therapy. NBC Information can not confirm these claims.

Following Paracha’s launch, 35 detainees stay in Guantanamo Bay and 18 have been cleared for launch, in accordance with Amnesty Worldwide. NBC Information has not confirmed this info.

Probably the most high-profile prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay jail is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 assaults.

Mushtaq Yusufzai reported from Peshawar, Pakistan and Hyder Abbasi from London.

Related Press and Courtney Kube contributed.

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