The United States has repatriated two brothers to their native Pakistan after holding them without charge for nearly two decades at the controversial Guantanamo Bay military prison.
Abdul Rabbani, 55, and Mohammed Rabbani, 53, were arrested by Pakistani authorities in their hometown of Karachi in 2002 before being rushed into US custody for allegedly operating al Qaeda safe houses.
The US Department of Defense announced on Thursday the repatriation to Pakistan of the brothers, who have never been charged with any crime, saying their custody “was no longer necessary to protect the security of the United States from a continuing significant threat.”
The Pentagon reported that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin notified Congress last month of his intention to send both men back to Pakistan, noting that the United States had completed the requirements for the transfer in consultation with the South Asian government.
The Rabbani brothers are the latest inmates to leave the Guantanamo prison as part of President Joe Biden’s efforts to shut down the controversial detention center.
“The United States appreciates the willingness of the Government of Pakistan and other partners to support ongoing US efforts focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing the Guantanamo Bay facility,” the Pentagon said Thursday. .
A statement from the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad confirmed the repatriation of the two brothers to Pakistan on Friday, saying it had “coordinated an extensive inter-agency process” to facilitate the transfer.
“We are pleased that these Pakistani citizens have finally been reunited with their families,” the statement said.
Evicting the prison
Another detainee from the same nation, Majid Khan, who confessed to his role as a courier for Al Qaeda, was transferred from Guantánamo and resettled in Belize earlier this month after serving his sentence.
Khan, 42, was held at the jail for about 15 years. He was sentenced in 2021 to 10 years, with credit for the years he spent cooperating with his American interrogators.
Last October, the United States released the oldest prisoner at Guantanamo, identified as Pakistani national Saifullah Paracha, and transferred him to his home country.
Paracha, 75, had been held at the detention center since 2003 on suspicion of being linked to al Qaeda, but was never charged with any crime.
Former US President George W. Bush’s administration established the facility at a naval base in Cuba to detain and interrogate suspected terrorists detained after Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, in which they died almost 3,000 people.
At its peak, the Guantánamo detention center reportedly housed up to 600 inmates accused of conspiring with terrorism against the Americans.
The Pentagon said Thursday that 32 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay, 18 of whom are eligible for transfer, nine indicted in military courts and two others convicted.
Human rights groups have long criticized the military prison and demanded its closure, citing reported abuses, torture and prolonged detention of inmates, many without charge or trial.