Saifullah Paracha, a former detainee at the Guatanamo Bay detention facility, has been repatriated to Pakistan, according to a statement from the Department of Defense.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin previously notified Congress in September of his intent to repatriate Paracha, who had been held in US detention since 2003 for alleged ties to al Qaeda.
The Defense Department statement said that “the United States 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.”
A statement from Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Paracha had arrived in the country on Saturday, adding that the Foreign Ministry “completed an extensive inter-agency process to facilitate the repatriation of Mr. Paracha.”
“We are glad that a Pakistani citizen detained abroad is finally reunited with his family,” the statement continued.
Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve, a prisoner advocacy group working with Paracha, said, “Saifullah is returning to his family as a frail old man, having been taken from them in the prime of his life. That injustice can never be rectified.”
Paracha, 75, had significant health issues while in US custody. He suffered his third heart attack (his second while in US custody) in June 2020, according to a statement from Reprieve. He was the oldest prisoner at Guantanamo Bay at the time of his release.
Foa thanked the Biden administration for the decision to release Paracha but pressed the White House to close Guantanamo Bay permanently.
“The Biden administration deserves some credit for expediting the release of Guantanamo detainees who were never charged with a crime, but the USA’s embrace of indefinite detention without trial has done lasting damage,” Foa said. “We can only begin to repair it when Guantánamo is closed for good.”
Thirty-five detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay, the Pentagon said in its statement Saturday, adding that, “20 are eligible for transfer; 3 are eligible for a Periodic Review Board; 9 are involved in the military commissions process; and 3 detainees have been convicted in military commissions.”
This story has been updated with additional reaction.