US releases Pakistani prisoner Paracha from Guantanamo Bay

By: News Desk
Published: 02:44 PM, 29 Oct, 2022
US releases Pakistani prisoner Paracha from Guantanamo Bay
Caption: File photo of Saifullah Paracha.
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With the efforts of PPP Chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the US authorities have released a Pakistani national detained at the infamous Guantanamo Bay after more than 18 years, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

In a tweet uploaded on Saturday, Bilawal Bhutto said “Mr Saif Ullah Paracha, a Pakistani national, who was detained in Guantanamo Bay, has been released and reached Pakistan on Saturday, 29 October, 2022.”

The minister further said “The Foreign Ministry completed an extensive inter-agency process to facilitate repatriation of Mr Paracha. We are glad that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad is finally reunited with his family.”

The 75-year-old was the oldest prisoner at Guantanamo Bay and was held on suspicion of ties with Al-Qaeda but never charged with a crime. His release was approved in May last year after more than 16 years in custody at the US base in Cuba.

The Foreign Ministry, in a statement, said “We are glad that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad is finally reunited with his family.”

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

The US captured Paracha in Thailand in 2003 and has held him at Guantanamo since September 2004.

Paracha, who suffers from a number of ailments including diabetes and a heart condition, has denied his involvement in terrorism, saying he did not know the men he was dealing with were Al-Qaeda members.

However, the US has long asserted that it can hold detainees indefinitely without charge under the international laws of war.

Paracha’s son had also been arrested on the charge of helping suspected militants to get into the US through faulty documents months before his father’s arrest.

He was sentenced to 30 years in jail in 2005 by the federal court in New York, however, a judge threw out witness accounts in March 2020. Uzair Paracha was sent back to Pakistan in 2021 after the US government decided not to seek a new trial.

The secretive US military prison once housed hundreds of suspected militants captured by US forces during America's so-called "war on terror" following the 9/11 attacks by Al-Qaeda in 2001.

Like most detainees at Guantanamo, Paracha -– aged 75 or 76 -– was never formally charged and had little legal power to challenge his detention.

Paracha's arrival 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.

The statement from the Pakistani foreign ministry did not mention Rabbani.

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 detainees left are several men who allegedly had direct roles in 9/11 and other Al-Qaeda attacks.

Paracha, who studied in the United States, 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 Mohammad.

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".

With inputs from AFP.