The oldest prisoner at Guantanamo Bay Saifullah Paracha has been released and sent back to Pakistan after nearly 20 years.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry reportedly confirmed the news of the release. The ministry in its statement stated, “We are glad that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad is finally reunited with his family.” He returned to Pakistan on October 29.
Two years after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US, Paracha, 75, was detained on suspicion of financing the terrorist group al-Qaeda. Although he was only suspected, Paracha always insisted on being innocent and was never charged.
Paracha’s lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, questioned despite being cleared for a release for over a year now, why his release took so long.
In a conversation with BBC, Smith said, “He’s been cleared for release [for] well over a year… he used to hum to me The Eagles song Hotel California, where you can [according to the lyrics] check out ‘but you can never leave.'”
Further adding, he said that Guantanamo is an embarrassment to the US. He said he still has four clients who are certified for release.
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Paracha was completing his studies in the US when the attack took place. He was detained in Thailand in July 2003, after an American FBI sting operation. The authorities accused him of connecting with some of the senior members of the group including the chief leader Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
After spending 14 months in US military prison in Afghanistan, he was sent to Guantanamo.
The United States had detained hundreds of individuals it characterised as illegal combatants.
The current President Joe Biden is under great pressure to release uncharged prisoners and to continue legal proceedings against those alleged to have close ties with the terrorist group al -Qaeda.
The Biden administration last year released allowed the release of Paracha and two others.
The chief operator for the 9/11 attack Khalid Mohammed is still being imprisoned.
(With inputs from agencies)
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