A 73-year-old from Pakistan 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. Saifullah Paracha, who has been held on suspicion of ties to al-Qaeda 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. 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, the AP reports. But it is a crucial step before the US government negotiates a repatriation agreement with Pakistan for his return.
Paracha's attorney said she thinks he will be returned home in the next several months. A Pentagon spokesman had no immediate comment. Paracha is one of 40 prisoners still held at Guantanamo, down from a peak of nearly 700 in 2003. President Biden's administration has said it intends to resume efforts to close the detention center, a process that former President Trump halted. 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, that he had been cleared. There are now about nine men held at Guantanamo who have been cleared for release, including one who has been approved since 2010. There are 10 facing trial by military commission and two who have been convicted, including one awaiting sentencing. Proceedings in the tribunals have been on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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