Pakistani held for 16 years in Guantanamo approved for release

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Saifullah Paracha, a 73-year-old Pakistani businessman, has been cleared for release after spending more than 16 years in the infamous US Guantanamo jail.

According to The New York Times, Paracha, the oldest of the prisoners, has been detained on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda but has never been charged with a crime. Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who served him at his November trial, was quoted as stating that he and two other men were cleared by the prisoner review board.

The notification is the first move in the process of the US government negotiating a repatriation deal with Pakistan to enable Paracha to return to his homeland.

“The Pakistanis want him back, and our understanding is that there are no impediments to his return,” Sullivan-Bennis said, adding that she thinks he will be returned home in the next several months.

According to The New York Times, the other two men who were informed that they had been accepted for release were Abdul Rabbani, 54, a Pakistani, and Uthman Abdul al-Rahim Uthman, 40, a Yemeni. No one has ever been charged with a crime against either of the three persons.

Rabbani and his associate, who is now detained at Guantanamo Bay, were apprehended in a security-services operation in Karachi in 2002, according to the newspaper.

Paracha has a number of health issues, including asthma and a heart attack.

He was apprehended in Thailand in 2003 and has been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay since September 2004.

Authorities claimed the retired businessman and lifetime legitimate New York citizen was an Al-Qaeda “facilitator” who assisted two of the 9/11 plotters in a financial transaction. He confessed to keeping around $500,00 for them but said he had no idea they were Al-Qaeda and denied any role in terrorism.

Following changes in a court dispute concerning his son, Uzair, Paracha made his eighth appearance before the oversight board in November.

Uzair Paracha was found guilty of terrorist funding in federal court in New York in 2005. The verdict was focused in part on evidence by the same experts that the US used to validate the father’s detention at Guantanamo.

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