US approves release of oldest Guantanamo prisoner: lawyer

WASHINGTON — A 73-year-old from Pakistan who’s the oldest prisoner on the Guantanamo Bay detention middle was notified on Monday that he has been authorised for release after greater than 16 years in custody on the US base in Cuba, his lawyer stated.

Saifullah Paracha, who has been held on suspicion of ties to al-Qaida however by no means charged with a criminal offense, was cleared by the prisoner overview board together with two different males, stated Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who represented him at his listening to in November.

As is customary, the notification didn’t present detailed reasoning for the choice and concluded solely that Paracha is “not a continuing threat” to the US, Sullivan-Bennis stated.

It doesn’t imply his release his imminent. But it’s a essential step earlier than the US authorities negotiates a repatriation settlement with Pakistan for his return. President Joe Biden’s administration has stated it intends to renew efforts to close the detention center, a course of that former President Donald Trump halted.

Paracha’s lawyer stated she thinks he will likely be returned dwelling within the subsequent a number of months.

“The Pakistanis want him back, and our understanding is that there are no impediments to his return,” she stated.

A Pentagon spokesman had no fast remark.

The prisoner overview board additionally knowledgeable Uthman Abd al-Rahim Uthman, a Yemeni who has been held with out cost at Guantanamo because it opened in January 2002, was additionally notified that he had been cleared, based on his lawyer, Beth Jacob, who spoke to him by telephone.

“He was happy, relieved and hopeful that this will actually lead to his release,” Jacob stated.

Paracha, who lived within the US and owned property in New York City, was a rich businessman in Pakistan. Authorities alleged he was an al-Qaida “facilitator” who helped two of the conspirators within the Sept. 11 plot with a monetary transaction. He says he didn’t know they had been al-Qaida and denies any involvement in terrorism.

The US, which captured Paracha in Thailand in 2003 and has held him at Guantanamo since September 2004, has lengthy asserted that it will possibly maintain detainees indefinitely with out cost underneath the worldwide legal guidelines of battle.

In November, Paracha, who suffers from a quantity of illnesses together with diabetes and a coronary heart situation, made his eighth look earlier than the overview board, which was established underneath President Barack Obama to attempt to stop the release of prisoners who authorities believed may interact in anti-US hostilities upon their release from Guantanamo.

At the time, his lawyer stated he was extra optimistic about his prospects as a result of of Biden’s election, his sick well being and developments in a authorized case involving his son, Uzair.

Uzair Paracha was convicted in 2005 in federal court docket in New York of offering help to terrorism, primarily based partially on testimony from the identical witnesses held at Guantanamo whom the US relied on to justify holding the daddy.

In March 2020, after a choose threw out these witness accounts and the federal government determined to not search a brand new trial, Uzair Paracha was launched and despatched again to Pakistan.

Saifullah Paracha is one of 40 prisoners nonetheless held at Guantanamo, down from a peak of practically 700 in 2003.

With this newest overview board choice, there at the moment are about 9 males held at Guantanamo who’ve been cleared for release, together with one who has been authorised since 2010. Under Obama, the US wouldn’t return males to Yemen as a result of of the civil battle there and sometimes struggled to search out third international locations to simply accept former prisoners.

Given that historical past, Jacob was solely cautiously optimistic about her consumer’s release. “I’m just hoping that in 11 years he’s not just still sitting there with his clearance still at Guantanamo,” she stated.

There are 10 dealing with trial by navy fee and two who’ve been convicted, together with one awaiting sentencing. Proceedings within the tribunals have been on maintain as a result of of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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