A Pakistani national held by the United States for 18 years in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp without trial on suspicion of links to al Qaeda returned home to Pakistan on Saturday after being the oldest prisoner at the detention facility.
Saifullah Paracha, 75, was apprehended in Thailand in July 2003 and transferred to the US military base at Bagram, Afghanistan, before being transferred in 2004 to the camp at the US naval station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Authorities claimed he was an al-Qaeda “facilitator” who assisted two of the Sept. 11 plot conspirators with a financial transaction after the attacks.
Those conspirators were allegedly Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is accused of planning the 9/11 attacks, and Mohammed’s nephew, Ammar al-Baluchi.
Khalid Mohammed is still being held at Guantanamo Bay, with no trial date for the death penalty set after the January 2021 trial was postponed due to COVID-19. Ammar al-Baluchi is being held at Guantanamo Bay as well.
‘We are pleased that a Pakistani citizen who has been detained abroad has been reunited with his family,’ said the Pakistani Foreign Ministry in a statement.
According to Reprieve, a London-based human rights organization that worked on his case, Paracha was the camp’s oldest inmate at 75. He was never charged with anything.
Paracha admits to keeping the $500,000 safe, but claims he had no idea the conspirators were al-Qaeda and denies any involvement in terrorism.
During an FBI sting in Thailand in 2003, Paracha was apprehended. Paracha thought he was going to meet with Kmart about a merchandise deal, only to be apprehended by intelligence agents and flown to Afghanistan.
The US has held him at Guantanamo since September 2004 and has long claimed that under international law, it can detain detainees indefinitely without charge.
The Department of Defense confirmed the repatriation and stated that Paracha’s continued detention was no longer necessary to protect the United States’ security.
Since 2008, the US has not transferred a detainee from Guantanamo Bay to Pakistan.
The latest release from the prison camp set up after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in pursuit of the al Qaeda network responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
The camp was widely condemned around the world for holding large numbers of prisoners without charging them or holding trials.
Its population peaked at around 800 inmates before declining during the Obama administration from 2009 to 2017.
According to the Defense Department, 35 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay, 20 of whom are eligible for transfer and three for a Periodic Review Board.
There are nine people involved in the military commission’s process, and three people have been convicted in military commissions.