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Life of a Pakistani prisoner in Guantanamo is at risk

(forwards to an automated appeal letter on AHRCP’s website)

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the deteriorating health of a Pakistani prisoner detained in a U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The prisoner is suffering from a serious heart ailment and his health has worsened since he was first imprisoned there in September 2004. The government of Pakistan has not intervened to ensure he is afforded with adequate medical attention. He has been charged for alleged involvement in the September 11 attack but has since not been tried nor produced in court. The prison’s medical facilities are inadequate and his request for treatment outside the prison has been denied.


Sixty-year-old Saifullah Paracha was a businessman and a prominent social worker in Karachi City, Sindh province. He was first reported to have disappeared on 6 July 2003 in Bangkok, Thailand while on a business trip, but his relatives found out later through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Islamabad that he had been arrested and subsequently detained in Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan on charges of terrorism. He was accused in having been involved in the September 11 attack. He was kept incommunicado there for over a year.

It was on 23 August 2003 that Saifullah’s family learned of his detention from the ICRC in Islamabad. However, his family was unable to communicate with him while he was detained there. One year later, in September 2004, Saifullah’s family was once again informed by a person from the ICRC that he had been transferred to Camp-5, a maximum security U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It is reported that each cell is approximately measured 6 feet wide and 8 feet high. The lights are switched on 24 hours a day and the prisoners are allowed out of their cells only two hours in a day. The prison guards periodically change the temperature of the cells from extreme cold to extreme heat. For a week they turn up the air conditioning system to maximum freezing the prisoners who are given only a thin cotton sheet at night. This is then taken away the following morning. Then the following week the guards turn off the air conditioning system and raise the temperature to a stifling 35 degrees Celsius.

The only communication his wife, Farhat, has had was through his lawyer. She also sometimes receives electronic mail from some human rights organizations. Though she can receive replies from Saifullah to her letters, it can take four to five months. Also, the manner in which the letters are written she described as “short, hurried scribbling” and written at the back of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) documents.

Since Saifullah’s detention there, he has experienced severe chest pains and shortness of breath on several occasions but has never been taken to a hospital facility for treatment. He had been diagnosed to have suffered a chronic heart disease prior to his arrest. Some of his relatives also had a similar history and died of such ailment. Thus, the denial by the prison authorities to have him treated in hospital and medical facilities outside the prison poses a serious risk to his life.

Saifullah is suspected of having links with al-Qaeda. According to his lawyer Mr. Zachary Katznelson, senior counsel of Reprieve, an organization based in UK working for prisoners in death row, the charges against him were reportedly over his alleged involvement in a plan to smuggle explosives into the U.S. for al-Qaeda. He was also alleged to have spoken to al-Qaeda’s Osama Bin Laden. Farhat said her husband has never denied the fact that her husband had met Bin Laden sometime in 1999 but she denied the charges against him. In fact, Saifullah use to brag that he had met Osama and was somehow taken in by his soft-spoken voice. He said he had wanted to interview Osama to give his version for his private production house in Karachi City.

The serious concern over his deteriorating health and continued deprivation of adequate medical treatment was due to a number of deaths of prisoners detained there. Reprieve has reported that five prisoners have already died due to illness and disease in Guantanamo prison. They were not afforded adequate medical attention.


Prior to his arrest, Saifullah Paracha ran a business of exporting garments, construction of private buildings and a private production house for radio and television channels.

Towards the end of 2002, Mr. Majid Khan, a person who allegedly had links with Al-Qaida, booked an apartment, which Saifullah owned. The said apartment project was then incomplete when purchased by Saifullah which he named as the Cliftonia at Clifton beach in Karachi City after having it renovated for his business of selling the apartments. However, at the time, neither Saifullah nor the Pakistani authorities knew of Majid’s identity.

Saifullah’s 25-year-old son, Uzair, who joined his father’s business after completing his Masters Degree in Business Administration, was also present when the booking was made. When Mr. Majid came to know that Uzair was then on a scheduled trip to the U.S. for study he had requested him to check the status of his citizenship at the U.S. Immigration office in Manhattan. Majid had claimed he was concerned over his U.S. citizenship after having been outside the country for many years. Uzair nevertheless promised to do so.

Sometime in March 2003, after Uzair arrived in the U.S. he went to the immigration to inquire into the status of Majid’s citizenship. Unknown to Uzair, at the time Majid was already wanted by the U.S. government in connection with the September 11 attack. Soon after, Uzair was himself arrested on 23 March 2003 over charges that he had links with Al-Qaida. He was reportedly not provided any lawyer for his defense when he was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment in 2005.


Please write letters to the concerned authorities in Pakistan for them to intervene to ensure that Saifullah Paracha is given adequate medical attention he requires promptly. To deny any assurance that their citizens’ welfare are looked into in foreign prisons threatens the life of this prisoner. They must also ensure that Saifullah and other Pakistani nationals continuously detained in Guantanamo prison are afforded with ordinary criminal procedure.

The AHRC is writing separate letters to the UN Special Rapportuer on the Question of Torture and Working Group on arbitrary detention calling for their immediate intervention in this matter.

(forwards to an automated appeal letter on AHRCP’s website)

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