Hannah Omarjee | firstname.lastname@example.org
20 February 2023 | 23:00 PM CAT
5 min read
Photo Credit: Al Jazeera – Saifullah Paracha
Saifullah Paracha, known as the ‘Forever Prisoner,’ was the longest-serving prisoner in Guantánamo. He was kidnapped in July 2003 in Thailand following a sting operation by the American FBI and accused by US authorities of having contact with some of Al-Qaeda’s most senior figures, including its leaders Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. However, he had never been charged with any crime for more than 17 years and was imprisoned at the US base in Cuba.
In May 2021, his release was approved by the review board established by former President Barack Obama, and he was finally repatriated to Pakistan in October last year.
Mansoor Adayfi, former Guantánamo Bay detainee, author, and project coordinator for CAGE, who spent time at Gitmo with Paracha, said that he was like a second father to him.
Describing Saifullah, Adayfi said he was a highly educated businessman who studied and lived in the United States with his family for nearly 17 years. Paracha was caring, and a father figure to many during their incarceration. He even taught prisoners business and English.
Adayfi explained how Paracha was arrested, as the US government wanted evidence against his son, Uzair. Uzair was convicted and spent 16 years in prison in the United States.
Saifullah tried many times to secure his release but was denied due to allegations against him. It was further alleged that his son was involved in the entire process. However, according to Adayfi, Americans, especially in Guantánamo Bay, attempt to pin any charge on prisoners to justify their imprisonment, regardless of whether it is deserved.
He alluded to a conversation with a CIA interrogator who admitted that their system was corrupt and that they knew that the detainees were innocent but could do nothing to help.
Unlike many other detainees who were sent to random countries upon their release, Paracha was repatriated to his birth country. Adayfi says that placement after release was classified, but was based on whether there was a risk if the prisoner returned home or was sent to another country. He added another factor: the security measures and how detainees will be monitored and restricted in those countries.
Former prisoners of Gitmo, most of whom have sent decades in prison, have no recourse against the US government’s wrongful incarceration, nor do they receive compensation for the wrongs perpetrated against them. According to Adayfi, former Guantánamo Bay prisoners could not sue the government or travel to the United States.
“What George W Bush and his administration did, they classified all of us as enemy combatants and the congress issue if anyone classified as an enemy combatant you are not allowed to sue the US government.”
Adayfi spoke about what closing Guantánamo Bay meant for those who were incarcerated there – they wanted acknowledgement, apologies for the atrocities committed against them, accountability from those who kidnapped and tortured them, and compensation for their loss, pain, and years lost.
Life after Guantánamo Bay is different for each prisoner. This hinges on an agreement between the United States and the receiving country, which agrees to monitor the prisoner while in the country. He further explained that some countries, such as Qatar, Oman, and Ireland, took more interest in establishing former detainees as productive members of society. However, countries such as Serbia and Albania have focused mainly on monitoring and security. In countries such as Kazakhstan, prisoners live in limbo. Adayfi said that there was no follow-up once the US placed prisoners. They were forgotten.
Presently, 34 men remain on Gitmo, 20 of whom have been cleared for release since 2009, 10 of whom are on trial, and one who has been convicted.
Regarding the permanent closure of Guantánamo Bay, Adayfi said it is unknown as the US Congress is against closing the detention centre, adding that President Biden is following in former President Obama’s footsteps and may release the remaining prisoners. However, for ex-detainees, a long, hard battle awaits, and the wait is interminable for those waiting to be released.
Listen to the full interview on Sabahul Muslim with Ml Sulaimaan Ravat and Mansoor Adayfi.
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