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Biden admin approves release of 3 Guantanamo Bay suspected terrorists

War-on-terror captives conduct communal evening prayers at the Camp 6 prison building at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on July 7, 2015. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/TNS)
May 19, 2021

The Biden administration has approved the release of three Guantanamo Bay detainees, to be sent to approved countries that agree to enforce security conditions on them, according to lawyers and government officials.

The New York Times reported Monday that among the three prisoners set to be released is Pakistani Saifullah Paracha, 73, who is the oldest inmate at Guantanamo after being held for nearly 20 years since the United States arrested hundreds of suspects following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

According to the Times, Paracha has also been described as one of the sickest detainees on the island, suffering from heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

“Today is one hell of a day. Saifullah Paracha – 73, 17 years wrongfully imprisoned — is going HOME,” his lawyer Shelby Sullivan-Bennis wrote on Twitter.

Paracha, a longtime legal resident of New York, was arrested in Thailand during an FBI sting operation in July 2003. He was persuaded to leave his home in Karachi, Pakistan, and travel to Bangkok under the guise of a bogus merchandising deal. Agents captured, hooded and handcuffed the Paracha, before transporting him to Afghanistan. He was considered a facilitator of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, accused of helping Khalid Shaikh Mohammad and Mohammad’s nephew Anmar al-Baluchi with financial transactions.

The Pakistani suspect confessed to protecting nearly $500,000 for the Mohammads, but asserted he did not know about their connections to Al Qaeda, claiming to have helped them as he would any fellow Muslim.

The two others approved for release are Pakistani Abdul Rabbani, 54, Uthman Abdul al-Rahim Uthman, 40, from Yemen. None of the detainees have been charged with a crime by the United States government in the nearly two decades that they have been in custody, AFP reported.

Of the prisoners still being held at Guantanamo, a dozen face war crimes charges with one conviction, and 19 are deemed too dangerous to transfer to another nation’s custody.

One government official said the three releases were approved last week by the attorney general, the director of national intelligence, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretaries of defense, homeland security and state.

The American Civil Liberties Union urged the White House Tuesday to appoint a senior official to discuss additional transfers with other countries.

“It’s encouraging that long-overdue transfer or release decisions for indefinitely detained Guantánamo prisoners are finally starting,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the A.C.L.U.’s National Security Project. “But implementation is also key.”