ISLAMABAD (AFP) – A Pakistani known for being the oldest detainee at the United States (US)-run Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba was released to his home country on Saturday, the South Asian country’s Foreign Ministry and the US Pentagon said.
The secretive US military prison once housed hundreds of suspected militants captured by US forces during America’s so-called “war on terror” following the 9/11 attacks by Al-Qaeda in 2001.
Businessman Saif Ullah Paracha was detained in 2003 in Thailand and accused of financing the extremist group, but he has maintained his innocence and claimed a love for the US.
Like most detainees at Guantanamo, Paracha – aged 75 or 76 – was never formally charged and had little legal power to challenge his detention.
“The Foreign Ministry completed an extensive inter-agency process to facilitate repatriation of Mr Paracha,” Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement on Saturday.
“We are glad that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad is finally reunited with his family.”
Paracha’s arrival comes after US President Joe Biden last year approved his release, along with that of another Pakistani national Abdul Rabbani, 55, and Yemen native Uthman Abdul al-Rahim Uthman, 41.
The statement from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry did not mention Rabbani.
A statement from the US Department of Defence said Paracha was released after it was determined his detention “was no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States”.