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US releases oldest Guantanamo detainee after almost 20 years

October 30, 2022 at 12:29 pm

Demonstrators dressed in Guantanamo Bay prisoner uniforms march past Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 9, 2020, [BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images]

A 74-year-old Pakistani national has returned home after spending almost two decades without charge in the notorious US-run Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba.

Saifullah Paracha was reunited with his family yesterday after spending more than 17 years in custody, the foreign ministry announced yesterday.

“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 Foreign Ministry completed an extensive inter-agency process to facilitate repatriation of Mr Paracha,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “We are glad that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad is finally reunited with his family.”

Paracha, who local news have described as the “last Pakistani in Guantanamo” lived in the US and was a wealthy businessman in Pakistan. He was arrested in the Thai capital Bangkok in 2003 on suspicion of ties with Al-Qaeda and held at the former US military prison in Bagram, Afghanistan before being transferred to Guantanamo. It was alleged he was a “facilitator” for the terrorist organisation; however Paracha maintained his innocence throughout his lengthy ordeal.

In May of last year, Paracha had been notified that his release was approved, having been cleared by a prisoner review board along with two other men. The former inmate suffers from several aliments including diabetes and a heart condition. It was his eighth appearance before the review board, which was established under former US President Barack Obama who once vowed to close the detention centre, which has long been criticised by international human rights groups over abuses and inhumane treatment of inmates, including torture.

Reprieve, a British-based human right charity welcomed their client’s release and described him as a “forever prisoner.” Maya Foa, the Joint Executive Director of Reprieve informed MEMO that Paracha was their second client to be released this year, but added that there were still others waiting to be released, after being held for years without being charged for any crime.

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