Washington (Web Desk): The United States has approved the release of a Pakistani who was captured in Thailand in 2003 on suspicion of ties with Al-Qaeda but never charged with a crime.
73-year-old Saifullah Paracha who is the oldest prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center was notified on Monday that he has been approved for release after more than 16 years in custody at the US base in Cuba, his lawyer said.
Paracha was cleared by the prisoner review board along with two other men, said Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who represented him at his hearing in November.
As is customary, the notification did not provide detailed reasoning for the decision and concluded only that Paracha is “not a continuing threat” to the US, Sullivan-Bennis said.
It does not mean his release his imminent. But it is a crucial step before the US government negotiates a repatriation agreement with Pakistan for his return. President Joe Biden's administration has said it intends to resume efforts to close the detention center, a process that former President Donald Trump halted.
Paracha’s attorney said she thinks he will be returned home in the next several months.
“The Pakistanis want him back, and our understanding is that there are no impediments to his return,” she said.
The prisoner review board also informed Uthman Abd al-Rahim Uthman, a Yemeni who has been held without charge at Guantanamo since it opened in January 2002.
Paracha, who lived in the US and owned property in New York City, was a wealthy businessman in Pakistan. Authorities alleged he was an al-Qaida “facilitator” who helped two of the conspirators in the Sept. 11 plot with a financial transaction. He says he didn’t know they were al-Qaida and denies any involvement in terrorism.
In November, Paracha, who suffers from a number of ailments including diabetes and a heart condition, made his eighth appearance before the review board, which was established under President Barack Obama to try to prevent the release of prisoners who authorities believed might engage in anti-US hostilities upon their release from Guantanamo.