Saturday, October 29, 2022
ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Saturday announced that Saifullah Paracha, a Pakistani national, detained in the US military prison at its Guantanamo Bay Naval Base for the last 18 years, had been released and reached Pakistan.
"We are glad that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad has finally reunited with his family," a handout issued by the foreign ministry said.
The statement said the ministry completed an extensive inter-agency process to facilitate the repatriation of Paracha, 75. He was said to be the oldest prisoner in the detention camp, which is a US military prison located within Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also shared the news with the nation in a Twitter post.
Suspected of having contacts with al Qaeda, Paracha was detained in Bangkok in July 2003 and taken to Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2004. He was never charged with any crime.
Paracha, who lived in the US and owned property in New York City, was a Karachi-based businessman. US authorities had alleged he was an al-Qaeda facilitator who helped two of the 9/11 plotters with a financial transaction.
Paracha has denied any involvement in terrorism.
The US has long asserted that it can hold detainees indefinitely without charge under the international laws of war.
The US government approved Paracha's release in May 2021 after his son Uzair Paracha's conviction was overturned in 2018.
Paracha’s son was arrested by US agencies on the charge of helping suspected militants to get into the US through faulty documents months before his father’s arrest.
He was sentenced to 30 years in jail in 2005 by the federal court in New York, however, a judge threw out witness accounts in March 2020.
Uzair Paracha, a graduate from Pakistan’s prestigious Institute of Business Administration, was sent back to Pakistan in 2021 after the US government decided not to seek a new trial.
In 2003, Paracha was heading to the Thai capital to join his American business partner for a meeting with buyers for Kmart, the retail chain.
Paracha did land at Bangkok airport – but never reached the rendezvous. It was later revealed he was picked up by an FBI-led operation on his way to the meeting point. He was flown to Bagram airbase in Afghanistan and accused of assisting al-Qaida.
The US authorities claimed that he had, among other activities, facilitated financial transactions for senior al-Qaida members and tried to help them smuggle explosives into the US.