by Zia Sarhadi (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 4, Shawwal, 1442)
Last month, the US approved the release of Saifullah Paracha, 73, the oldest prisoner at Guantanamo. His lawyer Ms. Shelby Sullivan-Bennis made the disclosure following the US prisoner review board’s decision on May 17 that Paracha had been cleared for release. The Pakistani-born prisoner, held at the illegally-occupied Cuban island since 2004 on suspicion of ties to al-Qaeda, was never charged with a crime.
Two other prisoners were also cleared for release in hearings held last November. The May 17 notification provided no detailed reasoning except to state that the review board had concluded Paracha was “not a continuing threat” to the United States. He had never posed any threat to the US. Paracha was caught in the dragnet after 911 in which every Muslim was considered a terrorist or a potential terrorist.
To understand what a mockery of justice the US indulges in, Paracha was accused, based on confessions extracted under torture from other prisoners at Guantanamo, of being an al Qaeda “facilitator”.
He lived in the US and owned property in New York City. He was a wealthy businessman in Pakistan. American authorities alleged he was an al-Qaeda “facilitator” who helped two of the conspirators in the 911 plot with a financial transaction. He vehemently denied involvement in terrorism or knowing the men he had helped with a financial transaction as being al-Qaeda operatives.
As a businessman, he travelled to many countries. He was kidnapped during a trip to Thailand in 2003 where the CIA ran a black site headed by Gina Hansel (later appointed CIA director by Donald Trump, no doubt based on her ‘sterling performance’ at various CIA black sites). Torture of detainees including water boarding was rampant. She recorded the torture sessions of detainees but later erased them to wipe out evidence of her criminal conduct.
Paracha was taken to Guantanamo in September 2004. His son Uzair Paracha was convicted in 2005 in a federal court in New York of providing support to terrorism. His conviction was based on the testimony from the same witnesses held at Guantanamo whom the US relied on to justify holding his father.
In March 2020, a US judge threw out those witness accounts against Uzair Paracha and the government decided not to seek a new trial. He was released and sent back to Pakistan. Following the dismissal of witness accounts against Uzair, the father’s plea that he was not involved in terrorism gained traction.
Last November, he made his eighth appearance before the review board. His lawyer said her client was more optimistic about his prospects because of Joe Biden’s election, his ill health (Paracha suffers from diabetes and has a heart ailment) and developments in the legal case involving his son.
The senior Paracha’s lawyer believes her client will be returned home in the next several months. Yes, you read that correctly. The review board has cleared him and said “he poses no threat to the US”, the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, yet it would take several months before he can go home. “The Pakistanis want him back, and our understanding is that there are no impediments to his return,” Ms. Sullivan-Bennis said.
Paracha is one of 40 prisoners still held at Guantanamo, down from a peak of nearly 700 in 2003. When the torture camp at Gitmo was opened in 2002, then US Secretary of Defence (Offence) Donald Rumsfeld alleged the people brought there were “worst of the worst”. His fellow war-monger Vice President Dick Cheney threatened a 100-year war!
The neo-con cabal that had grabbed power in the US by installing a dunce like George W. Bush as president through electoral fraud, were determined to find a pretext to wage wars against others, mainly Muslim countries. The aim was to establish America’s “full-spectrum dominance”. This policy was prescribed by the Zionists that had taken control of US government through such operatives as Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, and a host of others.
The White House was essentially run by Cheney, an absolute criminal, aided and abetted by another war criminal, Rumsfeld. Bush was too ignorant to know much. He remained, or was kept out of the loop, most of the time.
Following the 911 attacks that many people believe were an inside job, the neo-con cabal launched their campaign to round up Muslims. Thousands of Muslims in the US were thrown in jail. Some were tortured and killed. Their only crime was being Muslim.
Paracha was also caught in this net. Fantastic stories were spun around these individuals and the gullible Americans just lapped up this nonsense. Even if they hadn’t, there is little prospect that the hundreds of innocent people tortured at Gitmo would have seen justice.
Of the nearly 700 prisoners at Gitmo, some died under torture. The overwhelming majority have been released because even after torturing them, the US found nothing against them. Of the 40 prisoners still at Gitmo, 10 are facing trial by military commission and two who have been convicted, including one awaiting sentencing. Legal experts including several Americans have denounced the military commission as a kangaroo court.
Successive US regimes—from Bush to Barack Obama to Trump and now Biden—have refused to transfer these prisoners to the US to be tried in American courts. They all know that the cases against these men would be thrown out. The charges against them are all fraudulent. Confessions extracted under torture are inadmissible in any properly constituted court of law.
Of the few men charged with any offence, cases have been made based on confessions extracted under torture. One of the most horrific case is that of Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded more than 83 times in one month. Euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation technique” by Rumsfeld, waterboarding involves putting the victim on his back, placing a cloth over his face and pouring water over it until he begins to drown.
Others also suffered this fate. Khalid Saikh Muhammad was one of them. At Guantanamo, prisoners were subjected to other cruel punishments including sleep deprivation, held in stressful positions for prolonged periods and dogs set upon them.
America, the self-declared light unto nations, is fond of indulging in exotic conduct. If there were any justice in the world, the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush, Wolfowitz, Perle, Hansel and a host of others would be tried for war crimes and sent to the gallows.