Oldest Guantanamo Bay inmate, Saifullah Paracha, set free

Saifullah Paracha
Saifullah Paracha

After over 20 years of captivity without charge or trial, Saifullah Paracha, the oldest prisoner at the American-run Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, has been freed and returned to his native Pakistan, according to the foreign ministry of the South Asian nation.

According to a statement released by the foreign ministry on Saturday, “the Foreign Ministry concluded an elaborate inter-agency process to facilitate the repatriation of Mr. Paracha.”

“We are glad that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad is finally reunited with his family.”

Businessman Paracha was arrested in 2003 in Thailand and accused of financing the armed group, but he has maintained his innocence.

In May, the US approved Paracha’s release concluding only that he was “not a continuing threat” to the US.

Like most prisoners at Guantanamo, Paracha – aged 74 or 75 – was never formally charged and had little legal power to challenge his detention.

The secretive US military prison was established in the wake of 9/11 to hold suspected al-Qaeda members captured during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

But of the 780 inmates held during the US’s so-called “war on terror”, 732 were released without charge. Many of them were imprisoned for more than a decade without legal means to challenge their detention.

See also  Prophet Israel Ogundipe facilitates release of Pastor condemned to death

Nearly 40 prisoners remain in the world’s most infamous detention facility, which has become a symbol of human rights abuses.

Paracha’s return home on Saturday comes after US President Joe Biden last year approved his release, along with that of another Pakistani national Abdul Rabbani, 55, and Yemen native Uthman Abdul al-Rahim Uthman, 41.

Biden is under pressure to clear out uncharged prisoners at Guantanamo and move ahead with the trials of those accused of having direct ties to al-Qaeda.

Among the roughly 40 inmates left are several men who allegedly had direct roles in 9/11 and other al-Qaeda attacks.

Paracha, who studied in the US, had an import-export business supplying major US retailers.

US authorities accused him of having contact with al-Qaeda figures, including Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

In 2008, Paracha’s lawyer said the businessman had met bin Laden in 1999, and again a year later, in connection with the production of a television programme.

Reprieve, a UK-based human rights charity, described Paracha as a “forever prisoner”.

Since it first opened, Guantanamo has become notorious for human rights abuses and the fact that the US administration did not consider its prisoners to be entitled to any protection according to international laws.

Share this story