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Biden administration to release three Guantánamo Bay detainees, say reports

40 prisoners remain at US naval base

Justin Vallejo
New York
Tuesday 18 May 2021 18:51 BST
Moazzam Begg on Guantanamo Bay. Arrest, life inside and its future
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The Biden administration has approved the release of three prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay for almost 20 years without charge, according to The New York Times.

Citing US government officials and lawyers for the detainees, the Times reported the decision was approved last week but that the timing of the release was unclear as the State Department negotiated agreements with countries to take them.

The three men include the oldest detainee of Guantanamo, Saifullah Paracha, 73, of Pakistan, who was captured in 2003. Uthman Abdul al-Rahim Uthman, 40, of Yemen is the longest-held prisoner after being sent to Camp X-Ray in January 2002. Abdul Rabbani, 54, of Pakistan, was also sent to the detention centre in 2002.

The three join six others at the prison already approved for release but still waiting for another country to accept their transfer. An additional 31 detainees bring the total at the prison camp to 40.

As the Times reported, some of the detainees previously approved for release have been waiting for 10 years to have another country agree to take them; the US seeks diplomatic and security arrangements for countries to either continue to jail them, put them on trial, or prevent them from travelling.

During the previous administration, Donald Trump released one detainee to Saudi Arabia to serve the remaining nine years of a 13-year sentence.

While the ex-president closed the office overseeing the closing of Guantanamo, Joe Biden has pledged a return to Obama-era policies aimed at ending operations at the Navy base.

A lawyer for the oldest detainee still at the prison said the 73-year-old from Pakistan was notified about the release on Monday night after being held for 16 years on suspicion of ties to al-Qaida.

Attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis said Mr Paracha said no details were given for the decision, but that the notification said he was “not a continuing threat” to the US.

“The Pakistanis want him back, and our understanding is that there are no impediments to his return,” she said.

Beth Jacob, the lawyer for the longest-held prisoner at the detention centre, said Mr Uthman was “happy, relieved and hopeful” he will actually be released.

“I’m just hoping that in 11 years he’s not just still sitting there with his clearance still at Guantanamo,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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