Biden Approves Release of Two Pakistanis From The Military Prison At Guantanamo Bay
The Biden Administration has approved the release of two Pakistani men from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 73-year-old Saifullah Paracha, and 54-year old Abdul Rabbani.
Paracha is the oldest prisoner at Guantanamo and has medical ailments, described as among the sickest there, with heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The United States captured him in Thailand in 2003 and has held him at Guantanamo since September 2004.
U.S. authorities allege the former businessman and longtime U.S. resident was an Al-Qaeda “facilitator” who helped the conspirators in the 9/11 plot with a financial transaction. Paracha admitted to safeguarding about $500,000 for AL-Qaeda, but says he didn’t know who they were and denies any terrorism activity.
Paracha made his eighth appearance before the review board in November after developments in a legal case involving his son, Uzair.
Uzair Paracha was convicted in 2005 in federal court in New York of providing support to terrorism. The conviction was based in part on testimony from the same witnesses held at Guantanamo, whom the U.S. relied on to detain his father.
But a judge threw out those witness accounts in March 2020, and the government decided not to seek a new trial. Uzair Paracha agreed to relinquish his U.S. permanent residency to be released and returned to Pakistan.
Rabbani was captured in a security-services raid in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2002 along with his brother. Both are held in Guantanamo Bay prison.
Lawyer Shelby Sullivan-Bennis said both were notified on May 17th of their approval for release from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after over 16 years in custody on suspicion of helping facilitate two of the conspirators in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Saifullah Paracha was notified that he had been cleared by the prisoner review board, according to Sullivan-Bennis. She added the notification did not provide details about the decision and concluded that Paracha was “not a continuing threat” to the United States.
“The Pakistanis want him back, and our understanding is that there are no impediments to his return,” Sullivan-Bennis said, adding that she thinks he will be returned home in the next several months.
According to The New York Times, another man Uthman Abdul al-Rahim Uthman, 40, of Yemeni descent, was also approved for release.
None of the men released has ever been charged with a crime.
The State Department must ensure diplomatic and security arrangements with countries that agree to give the men residency, thus making the time and date of their releases uncertain. Although cleared for release, some detainees have been waiting for years in Guantanamo, hoping for a country to agree to take them.
On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) urged the White House to designate a senior U.S. official to negotiate transfer arrangements 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 ACLU’s National Security Project.