Guantanamo Bay: US releases oldest detainee Saifullah Paracha

Guantanamo Bay’s oldest prisoner has been released to his home country, Pakistan, after almost two decades.

Saifullah Paracha, 75, was arrested two years after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US and accused of being an al-Qaeda sympathiser.

Mr Paracha was suspected of financing the jihadist group, but maintained his innocence and was never charged.

The US military prison in Cuba once housed hundreds of suspected militants captured following the attacks.

“Mr Saif Ullah Paracha, a Pakistani national, who was detained in Guantanamo Bay, has been released and reached Pakistan on Saturday, 29 October 2022,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said.

“We are glad that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad is finally reunited with his family,” the statement added.

Clive Stafford-Smith, Mr Paracha’s lawyer, questioned why it had taken so long for his client to be released.

“He’s been cleared for release [for] well over a year… he used to hum to me The Eagles song Hotel California, where you can [according to the lyrics] check out ‘but you can never leave’,” Mr Stafford-Smith told the BBC’s Newshour programme.

Mr Paracha was captured in July 2003 in Thailand following a sting operation by the American FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigations].

Mr Paracha, who studied in the US, was accused by US authorities of having contact with some of the group’s most senior figures, including its leader Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

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