Oct 29, 2022 - World

Guantanamo Bay's oldest prisoner released after 19-year incarceration

An unused portion of the U.S. detention facility.

An unused portion of the U.S. detention facility. Photo: Maren Hennemuth/picture alliance via Getty Images

The United States has released the oldest prisoner from the Guantanamo Bay detention center, Pakistan's foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday.

Why it matters: The prisoner, Saifullah Paracha, has been in the U.S. base since 2003 even though he was never charged with a crime, NBC News reports.

Details: Paracha, a former businessman and TV producer, was held at the detention center since 2003 on suspicion of being tied to al-Qaeda, according to NPR.

  • According to his case sheet, the U.S. alleged Paracha had ties to senior al-Qaeda members, including Osama bin Laden, and that he had "proposed the use of nuclear weapons against US troops."
  • Paracha said he only spoke to bin Laden twice at public meetings. He also said may have spoken to Pakistani nationals with ties to al-Qaeda, but he wasn't aware of the connections, according to the case sheet.
  • The Pentagon said in a statement that the review committee determined Paracha should be released because he was no longer a "significant threat to the security of the United States. "

What they're saying: "We are glad that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad is finally reunited with his family," the foreign ministry said.

  • Pakistan's foreign ministry said it finished "an extensive inter-agency process to facilitate the repatriation of Mr. Paracha."
  • The Pentagon said in a statement that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told Congress "of his intent to repatriate Saifullah Paracha to Pakistan" in September.
  • The Defense Department said the U.S. "appreciates the willingness of Pakistan and other partners to support ongoing U.S. efforts focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing the Guantanamo Bay facility."

The big picture: Today, there are 35 detainees still at Guantanamo Bay, according to the Pentagon. Twenty of the detainees are eligible for transfer and three are eligible for review.

  • Paracha is at least the fourth person released from Guantanamo this year, NPR reports.

Go deeper: 16 years of Guantánamo

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