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Pakistan: the oldest prisoner freed from Guantanamo, back home

ISLAMABAD — A 75-year-old Pakistani man, who was the oldest prisoner in the Guantanamo Bay detention center, was released and returned to Pakistan on Saturday, the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad said.

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

Paracha had been detained since 2003 on suspicion of having ties to al-Qaeda, but was never charged with a crime. Last year, in May, he was informed that his release had been approved. He was cleared by the Prisoners’ Review Board, along with two other men in November 2020.

As usual, the notification did not provide detailed reasons for the decision and only concluded that Parsha was “not a continuing threat” to the United States, according to Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who represented him at his hearing in the time.

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

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

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

He maintained that he did not know they belonged to al-Qaeda 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 laws of war.

In November 2020, Parsha, who suffers from a number of illnesses including diabetes and heart disease, made his eighth appearance before the review board, which was created under President Barack Obama to try to prevent the release of prisoners who, according to the authorities, could enlist. in anti-American hostilities upon their release from Guantanamo.

At the time, his lawyer, Sullivan-Bennis, said she was more optimistic about his prospects due to the election of President Joe Biden, Parsha’s poor health and developments in a case. court case involving his son, Uzair Parsha.

The son was convicted in 2005 in federal court in New York of supporting terrorism, based in part on testimony from the same witnesses held at Guantanamo that the United States relied on to justify the father’s detention.

In March 2020, after a judge rejected these testimonies and the US government decided not to seek a new trial, the young Parsha was released and returned to Pakistan.


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