The oldest prisoner from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center was released from US custody on Saturday and returned to Pakistan.
Saifullah Paracha, 75, had been in custody since 2003 on suspicion of being linked to al Qaeda without ever having been charged with a crime. In May, he was informed that his release had been approved, having been cleared by the prison review committee for release in 2020 between two other men.
The notification said the Paracha “is not a continuing threat” to the United States, said Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who represented it at the hearing.
In a statement on Saturday, the Department of Defense said the US appreciates “the willingness of Pakistan and other partners to support the ongoing US efforts to responsibly reduce the detainee population and ultimately close the prison. Guantanamo Bay facility “.
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Paracha appeared before the review committee for the eighth time in November 2020. The council was set up by former President Barack Obama’s administration in an effort to prevent the release from Guantanamo Bay to Cuba of prisoners who could engage in anti – American.
Paracha’s repatriation was facilitated by the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“We are delighted that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad is finally reunited with his family,” reads a statement from the Pakistani government agency.
Paracha lived in the United States and owned real estate in New York City when authorities claimed he served as a “facilitator” for al Qaeda in the September 11, 2001 attacks, assisting two of the conspirators in a financial transaction.
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However, Paracha said he was unaware that the people were associated with al Qaeda and denied involvement in terrorism.
He was taken into U.S. custody while in Thailand in 2003 and has been in Guantanamo Bay since 2004.
Paracha’s son, Uzair Paracha, was convicted of providing support for terrorism in 2005, partly based on testimonies from people detained in Guantanamo Bay. The witnesses also served to justify the father’s detention.
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A judge dismissed testimony against Uzair Paracha in March 2020, and the US government did not push for another trial, allowing Paracha to be released in Pakistan.
The Department of Defense says 35 inmates are in Guantanamo Bay, adding that 20 can be relocated.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.