Guantanamo Bay’s oldest prisoner freed and returned to Pakistan


The oldest prisoner in the Guantanamo Bay detention center was released on Saturday and sent back to Pakistan.

Saifullah Paracha, 75, had been in detention since 2003 on suspicion of being linked to al-Qaeda without ever having been charged with a crime. In May he was told his release had been approved, being among two other men cleared by the prison review board for release in 2020.

The notification says Parsha is “not a continuing threat” to the United States, said Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who represented him at a hearing.

In a statement Saturday, the Department of Defense said the United States appreciates “the willingness of Pakistan and other partners to support ongoing U.S. efforts focused on responsible reduction of the detainee population and, ultimately account, the closure of the Guantanamo Bay facility”.

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This undated image provided by Saifullah Paracha’s lawyer shows Paracha in Guantanamo Bay detention center. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said Paracha, who was the longest serving prisoner in the Guantanamo Bay detention center, has been released and returned to his home country. The ministry says Saifullah Paracha was reunited with his family on Saturday, October 29, 2022, after spending more than 17 years in detention at the US base in Cuba.
(Advice from Saifullah Parsha via AP)

Parsha appeared before the Review Board for the eighth time in November 2020. The Board was established by former President Barack Obama’s administration to prevent prisoners who may engage in anti- Americans to be released from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Parsha’s repatriation was facilitated by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry.

“We are happy that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad is finally reunited with his family,” read a statement from the Pakistani government agency.

Parasha was living in the United States and owned real estate in New York when authorities alleged he served as an “facilitator” for al-Qaeda in the September 11, 2001 attacks by assisting two of the conspirators in a financial transaction.

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In this photo, reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official, detainees stand together in front of a fence, one holding an Islamic prayer beads, at Camp Delta prison, U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba .

In this photo, reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official, detainees stand together in front of a fence, one holding an Islamic prayer beads, at Camp Delta prison, U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba .
(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

However, Parsha said he did not know the individuals were associated with al-Qaeda and denied any involvement in terrorism.

He was arrested by the United States while in Thailand in 2003 and has been in Guantanamo Bay since 2004.

Paracha’s son, Uzair Paracha was convicted of providing support to terrorism in 2005, based in part on testimony from people detained at Guantanamo Bay. The witnesses were also used to justify the detention of the father.

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In this photo reviewed by U.S. military officials, the sun sets behind the closed Camp X-Ray detention facility, April 17, 2019, at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In this photo reviewed by U.S. military officials, the sun sets behind the closed Camp X-Ray detention facility, April 17, 2019, at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

A judge rejected the witness’s testimony against Uzair Paracha in March 2020 and the US government did not press for another trial, allowing Paracha to be released in Pakistan.

The Department of Defense says 35 detainees are at Guantanamo Bay, adding that 20 are eligible for transfer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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