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US releases oldest Guantanamo Bay prisoner who was held for two decades

Guantanamo Bay’s longest-serving prisoner has been released after being held for nearly two decades without charge.

Seventy-five-year-old Saifullah Paracha was transferred to the detention center in 2004 after he was captured during an FBI sting operation in Thailand. Mr Paracha, who was 56 at the time, was accused of meeting Osama bin Laden and helping the orchestrators of 9/11 “facilitate financial transactions and propaganda”.

The Pakistani national, who was never charged with any crime but considered too dangerous to be released, has since been repatriated, the Pakistani government said in a statement.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has completed an extensive inter-agency process to facilitate [the] repatriation of Mr. Parasha. We are happy that a Pakistani citizen detained overseas is finally reunited with his family,” the statement read.

At the time of his capture, Mr. Paracha was a legal resident of the United States. He lived in the Queens borough of New York and managed various businesses including real estate agencies, travel agencies and a media company, The New York Times reported.

Mr Paracha, who obtained his green card in 1980, has denied any involvement in the September 11 attacks and any affiliation with al-Qaeda.

During the sting operation, Mr. Paracha was tricked by officials claiming to be representatives of Kmart, who told him they needed to meet him in Bangkok, Thailand, to discuss a deal. In July 2003, he was captured by FBI agents at the airport.

This undated photo taken by the International Committee of the Red Cross and provided by attorney David H. Remes, shows Mr. Paracha

Mr Paracha was then taken to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where he was first detained. He suffered a heart attack just over a year after his imprisonment and was transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

He unsuccessfully appealed for his release, saying he did not know the true identity of Khalid Shaik Mohammed, whom Mr Paracha helped facilitate financial transactions. Mohammed, 58, dubbed “the main architect of the 9/11 attacks” in the 9/11 Commission report, is among 35 detained at Guantanamo.

Mr Parsha is also said to have met Osama bin Laden during a delegation of Pakistani dignitaries, the Time reports.

Mr. Paracha was held without charge for 18 years

(Getty)

Mr. Paracha suffered from several health problems during his detention. He refused treatment for his heart problems at Guantanamo. The Time reports that he will be living with his son in Pakistan and is expected to receive medical treatment.

Mr. Paracha’s son, Uzair Paracha, was also arrested at the time of the FBI operation that led to his father’s capture. Uzair Paracha’s 30-year prison sentence for providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization was overturned in 2020.

He was released after serving 17 years in prison and asked to give up his legal residency status.


The Independent Gt

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