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Oldest Guantanamo Bay prisoner released to Pakistan

The entrance to Camp 1 in Guantanamo Bay's Camp Delta. (Photo by Kathleen T. Rhem, U.S. Department of Defense/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A Pakistani known for being the oldest detainee at the U.S facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was released to his home country on October 29, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said.

Businessman Saif Ullah Paracha was detained in 2003 in Thailand and accused of financing the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Paracha, 75, was never formally charged. He has maintained his innocence.

“The Foreign Ministry completed an extensive inter-agency process to facilitate repatriation of Mr. Paracha,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office said in a statement on October 29. “We are glad that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad is finally reunited with his family.”

Paracha’s arrival comes after U.S. President Joe Biden last year approved his release, along with that of another Pakistani national, Abdul Rabbani, and Yemen native Uthman Abdul al-Rahim Uthman.

Biden is under pressure to clear out uncharged prisoners at Guantanamo and move ahead with the trials of those accused of having direct ties to Al-Qaeda.

Among the roughly 40 detainees left are several men who allegedly had direct roles in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States and other Al-Qaeda attacks.

Paracha, who studied in the United States, had an import-export business supplying major U.S retailers.

U.S. authorities accused him of having contact with Al-Qaeda figures, including Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. He had claimed he didn’t know the men he was dealing with were members of the terrorist group.

In 2008, Paracha’s lawyer said the businessman had met bin Laden in 1999, and again a year later, in connection with the production of a television show.

Reprieve, a U.K.-based human rights charity, described Paracha as a “forever prisoner.”