Three Guantanamo prisoners approved for release

The three men have never been charged with a crime

Three of the 40 prisoners still at the Guantanamo Bay US military prison have been approved for release. AFP
Three of the 40 prisoners still at the Guantanamo Bay US military prison have been approved for release. AFP

Three of the 40 prisoners still at the Guantanamo Bay US military prison have been approved for release, a lawyer for one said on Tuesday, in the first such approval under the administration of President Joe Biden.

The three prisoners include Pakistani citizen Saifullah Paracha, who at 73 is the oldest of those still being held two decades after the US detained hundreds of suspects following the September 11 attacks.

The others approved for release are Abdul Rabbani, 54, also from Pakistan, and Yemen native Uthman Abdul Al Rahim Uthman, 40.

"Today is one hell of a day. Saifullah Paracha – 73, 17 years wrongfully imprisoned – is going HOME," his lawyer Shelby Sullivan-Bennis said in a tweet.

Ms Sullivan-Bennis confirmed that the release of all three prisoners was approved by a high-level White House panel on Monday.

She said that this could lead to their being freed as early as 30 days from now, though it depends on arrangements being made with their destination countries.

Pakistan has been open to taking back its nationals detained at Guantanamo, but resettling Yemeni nationals has been difficult because of the security situation in the country.

Like most of those held at Guantanamo, none of these prisoners have ever been formally charged with a crime.

Mr Paracha was a businessman who studied in the US and had an import-export business supplying major American retailers. He was seized in Thailand in 2003, accused of helping finance Al Qaeda, the group behind the 9/11 attacks.

He has been held ever since without charge but has maintained his innocence.

Ms Sullivan-Bennis said he suffers from high blood pressure and coronary disease.

Six other prisoners have also been cleared for release, five of them approved before former president Donald Trump came into office in 2017.

Mr Biden is under pressure to clear out uncharged prisoners at Guantanamo and move ahead with the trials of those accused of direct Al Qaeda ties.

Among the 40 detainees left – at one point there were about 800 – are a number of men who allegedly had direct roles in 9/11 and other Al Qaeda terror attacks.

The US government has stated that it wants to try them before military tribunals, but this remains mired in legal and bureaucratic issues that have prevented any real progress.

After Monday's decision on the releases, Ms Sullivan-Bennis said, "I feel confident that the Biden administration is going forward to clear out Guantanamo to the extent that is possible."

Published: May 19, 2021 02:51 AM

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