Longest serving Guantanamo Bay prisoner transferred to Pakistan after 17 years in detention, US says
A 75-year-old Pakistani man who was the oldest prisoner in the Guantanamo Gulf The detention center was released and returned to Pakistan on Saturday, the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad and the US Department of Defense announced.
Saifullah Parsha was reunited with his family after more than 17 years of detention at the US base in Cuba, the ministry added.
Parasha had been detained on suspicion of al-Qaeda links since 2003, but was never charged with a crime. In May 2021, he was informed that he had been approved for release. He was cleared by the Prisoners’ Review Board, along with two other men in November 2020.
As usual, the notification did not provide detailed reasons for the decision and only concluded that Parsha was “not a continuing threat” to the United States, according to Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who represented him at his hearing in the time.
The DOD said in its Saturday statement that the United States appreciates “the willingness of Pakistan and other partners to support ongoing U.S. efforts focused on responsible reduction of the detainee population and ultimately the closure of the Guantanamo Bay facility”.
In Pakistan, the Foreign Ministry said it had completed an extensive inter-agency process to facilitate Paracha’s repatriation.
“We are happy that a Pakistani citizen detained overseas is finally reunited with his family,” the ministry said.
Parasha, who lived in the United States and owned property in New York, was a wealthy businessman in Pakistan. Authorities alleged he was an al-Qaeda “enabler” who aided two of the conspirators in the 9/11 plot with a financial transaction.
He maintained that he did not know they were al-Qaeda and denied any involvement in terrorism.
The United States captured Paracha in Thailand in 2003 and has held him at Guantanamo since September 2004. Washington has long asserted that it can hold detainees indefinitely without charge under international laws of war.
In November 2020, Parsha, who suffers from a number of illnesses including diabetes and heart disease, made his eighth appearance before the review board, which was created under President Barack Obama to try to prevent the release of prisoners who, according to the authorities, could enlist. in anti-American hostilities upon their release from Guantanamo.
At the time, his lawyer, Sullivan-Bennis, said she was more optimistic about his prospects due to the election of President Joe Biden, Parsha’s poor health and developments in a case. court case involving his son, Uzair Parsha.
The son was convicted in 2005 in federal court in New York of supporting terrorism, based in part on testimony from the same witnesses held at Guantanamo that the United States relied on to justify the father’s detention.
In March 2020, after a judge rejected these testimonies and the US government decided not to seek a new trial, the young Parsha was released and returned to Pakistan.
In its statement on the former Parsha’s repatriation, the DOD said 35 detainees remained at Guantanamo Bay as of Saturday, and 20 of them were eligible for transfer.
Five prisoners who have been indicted for their role in the 9/11 attacks are negotiating potential plea deals that could take the death penalty off the table and keep Cuba’s military base detention camp open for the foreseeable future, CBS News reported last month. The possible plea deals angered some families of victims, who said they wanted justice.
The number of prisoners at Guantanamo has, however, decreased in recent months, with many having been transferred elsewhere. In March, Mohammad Mani Ahmad al-QahtanI, who had been linked to 9/11, was sent to Saudi Arabia, and the following month, Sufyan Barhoumi, accused of being an extremist, was repatriated to Algeria after spending nearly 20 years in a detention center. In July, a review board determined that Khalid Ahmed Qassimknown as one of Guantanamo’s “forever prisoners”, is expected to be released in an undetermined country.
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