Oldest Guantanamo Bay Prisoner Released Back to Pakistan After Over 17 Years

Image via Getty/Mark Wilson
Image via Getty/Mark Wilson

A 75-year-old Pakistani man was released from the Guantanamo Bay detention center and repatriated to his home country.

The man, Saifullah Paracha has been detained at Guantanamo since 2003 for his alleged ties to Al Qaeda, according to NBC News. He has now been “reunited with his family” in Pakistan.

“We are glad that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad is finally reunited with his family,” a statement said from Reprieve, a legal fund that worked with Paracha for his release. Reprieve added that the Foreign Ministry had “completed an extensive interagency process” to have him returned to his country.

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During the over 17 years he was held at the U.S. base in Cuba, Paracha was never charged with a crime. Following his eighth time in front of the prisoner review board, he was told in May 2021 that he would be released. The reason for his being discharged wasn’t divulged, with the notification only saying he is “not a continuing threat” to the U.S.

Prior to his detainment, Paracha was a wealthy businessman who lived and owned property in the U.S. He was later caught in Bangkok, Thailand in 2003 amid accusations that he was an Al Qaeda “facilitator” who aided two 9/11 conspirators with a financial transaction. He denied his connection to the terrorist attacks but was still taken to the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan before being transferred to Guantanamo in 2004.

“Saifullah is returning to his family as a frail old man, having been taken from them in the prime of his life. That injustice can never be rectified,” Maya Foa, the executive director of Reprieve, told NBC.

She continued, “The Biden administration deserves some credit for expediting the release of Guantánamo detainees who were never charged with a crime, but the U.S.’ embrace of indefinite detention without trial has done lasting damage.”

Paracha’s son, Uzair was convicted in 2005 in a New York federal court for providing support to terrorism. He was later released and sent back to Pakistan in March 2020 when a judge tossed the witness testimony originally made against him.

Thirty-five detainees are still being kept in Guantanamo Bay, with 18 set to be released. One of those men is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man accused of organizing 9/11.

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