(AFP) – Jun 2, 2008
KARACHI (AFP) — A lawyer for a Pakistani national held in the US prison at Guantanamo Bay for more than three years urged Monday the government to seek his release, saying he was seriously ill.
US agents arrested businessman and television producer Saifullah Paracha, 61, in July 2003 in Bangkok for his links with leading members of the Al-Qaeda network including its chief Osama bin Laden, the lawyer said.
Since his transfer to Guantanamo more than a year later, Paracha has suffered heart problems and doctors have recommended surgery, lawyer Zachary Katznelson told a press conference in the southern port city of Karachi.
"Political intervention is the only hope for Saifullah Paracha to receive justice," Katznelson said.
"And until that day (of his release) he will continue to languish and may possibly perish in his cell (if not released immediately)."
US authorities accuse Paracha of having contact with Al-Qaeda figures including bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, charged over the September 11 attacks in the United States, and also detained at Guantanamo Bay, he said.
"Paracha does not deny meeting them (Al-Qaeda figures other than bin Laden) but states that he did not know the men's real identities or that they were supposed to be connected in any way with terrorism," Katznelson said.
"These men approached Paracha in Karachi in the context of his business seeking investment opportunities. They did not use their real names and never told him of any terrorist connections," he said.
"My client says he was quite shocked when he later saw that they were accused of terrorism."
The lawyer said Paracha met bin Laden in 1999, and again one year later in connection with a television programme that he wanted to make.
"Bin Laden stated that he would think about it. No interview ever took place. Paracha has never been given a trial to formally answer these allegations," Katznelson said.
After his arrest, Paracha was first taken to Afghanistan and detained at the Bagram US Air Force base, before being moved to Guantanamo Bay in September 2004, Katznelson said.
He said Paracha needed to be transferred to a medical facility, but instead was being kept in a 10 feet by 6 feet cell with the lights on 24 hours a day.
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