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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/21/21

US approves release of 73-year-old Pakistani prisoner at Guantanamo

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A 73-year-old from Pakistan who is the oldest prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre was notified on Monday that he has been approved for release after more than 16 years in custody at the US base in Cuba, the daily Dawn reported.

Saifullah Paracha, who has been held on suspicion of ties to Al Qaeda but never charged with a crime, was cleared by the prisoner-review board along with two other men, said Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who represented him at his hearing in November.

As is customary, the notification did not provide detailed reasoning for the decision and concluded only that Paracha is "not a continuing threat" to the US, Sullivan-Bennis said.

It does not mean his release is imminent. But it is a crucial step before the US government negotiates a repatriation agreement with Pakistan for his return, according to Dawn.

US President Joe Biden's administration has said it intends to resume efforts to close the detention centre, a process that former president Donald Trump halted.

Paracha's attorney said she thinks he will be returned home in the next several months. "The Pakistanis want him back, and our understanding is that there are no impediments to his return," she said.

A Pentagon spokesman had no immediate comment.

Uthman Abd Al Rahim Uthman, a Yemeni who has been held without charge at Guantanamo since it opened in January 2002, was also notified that he had been cleared, according to his attorney, Beth Jacob, who spoke to him by phone.

"He was happy, relieved and hopeful that this will actually lead to his release," Jacob said.

Paracha, who lived in the US and owned property in New York City, was a wealthy businessman in Pakistan.

Authorities alleged he was an Al Qaeda "facilitator" who helped two of the conspirators in the September 11 plot with a financial transaction. He says he didn't know they were Al Qaeda and denies any involvement in terrorism.

The US, which captured Paracha in Thailand in 2003 and has held him at Guantanamo since September 2004, has long asserted that it can hold detainees indefinitely without charge under the international laws of war.

In November, Paracha, who suffers from a number of ailments including diabetes and a heart condition, made his eighth appearance before the review board, which was established under former US president Barack Obama to try to prevent the release of prisoners who authorities believed might engage in anti-US hostilities upon their release.

At the time, his attorney said he was more optimistic about his prospects because of Biden's election, his ill health and developments in a legal case involving his son, Uzair.

Saifullah Paracha is one of 40 prisoners still held at Guantanamo, down from a peak of nearly 700. In total 72 Pakistani nationals have been held at Guantanamo. Currently there are six Pakistani nationals. According to a New York report at present there are 40 prisoners at Guantanamo from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, and others (including those with dual citizenship).

Ahmed Rabbani is Pakistani Rohingya and is currently being held in Guantanamo Bay for 18 years without trial. He was captured in Karachi on September 10, 2002.

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Abdus-Sattar Ghazali Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 
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