US approves release of 73-year-old Pakistani, oldest Guantanamo prisoner

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The lawyer of 73-year-old from Pakistan has said that he has been approved for release after more than 16 years in custody at the U.S. base in Cuba.

He is the oldest prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

Saifullah Paracha, who has been held on suspicion of ties to al-Qaida but never charged with a crime, was cleared by the prisoner review board along with two other men, said Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who represented him at his hearing in November, Associated Press reported.

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 U.S., Sullivan-Bennis said.

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.

“He was happy, relieved and hopeful that this will actually lead to his release,” Jacob said.

Paracha, who lived in the U.S. 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.

The U.S., which captured Paracha in Thailand in 2003 and has held him at Guantanamo since September 2004, has long asserted that it can hold detainees indefinitely without charge under the international laws of war.

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-U.S. hostilities upon their release from Guantanamo.

Saifullah Paracha is one of 40 prisoners still held at Guantanamo, down from a peak of nearly 700 in 2003.

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