Lawyer: US approves release of oldest Guantanamo prisoner

This undated photo made by the International Committee of the Red Cross and provided by lawyer David H. Remes, shows Guantanamo prisoner Saifullah Paracha. A lawyer for the oldest prisoner at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, says authorities have approved his release after more than 16 years in custody. Attorney Shelby-Sullivan Bennis says she was notified Monday that the prison review board determined 73-year-old Saifullah Paracha is deemed to no longer pose a threat to U.S. security. The native of Pakistan has been held at Guantanamo since September 2004 for suspected links to al-Qaida but was never charged.  (Provided by David H. Remes via AP)
This undated photo made by the International Committee of the Red Cross and provided by lawyer David H. Remes, shows Guantanamo prisoner Saifullah Paracha. A lawyer for the oldest prisoner at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, says authorities have approved his release after more than 16 years in custody. Attorney Shelby-Sullivan Bennis says she was notified Monday that the prison review board determined 73-year-old Saifullah Paracha is deemed to no longer pose a threat to U.S. security. The native of Pakistan has been held at Guantanamo since September 2004 for suspected links to al-Qaida but was never charged. (Provided by David H. Remes via AP)

WASHINGTON – 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 U.S. base in Cuba, his lawyer said.

Saifullah Paracha, who has been held on suspicion of ties to al-Qaida 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 U.S., Sullivan-Bennis said.

It does not mean his release his imminent. But it is a crucial step before the U.S. government negotiates a repatriation agreement with Pakistan for his return. President Joe Biden's administration has said it intends to resume efforts to close the detention center, a process that former President Donald Trump halted.

Paracha's attorney said she thinks he will be returned home in the next several months.

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

A Pentagon spokesman had no immediate comment.

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, was also notified that he had been cleared, according to his attorney, Beth Jacob, who spoke to him by phone.