The United States has transferred two brothers, Abdul Rabbani and Mohammed Rabbani, from the Guantanamo Bay US detention facility in Cuba to Pakistan, after 21 years if incarceration, bringing the total number of people held at Guantanamo down to 32, the Pentagon said on Thursday (Feb 23).
The Guantanamo camp was established by Republican President George W. Bush in 2002 to house foreign terrorism suspects following the 2001 hijacked plane attacks on New York and the Pentagon that killed about 3,000 people.
Guantanamo Bay US detention centre came to symbolise the excesses of the US “war on terror” because of harsh interrogation methods that critics have said amounted to torture.
There were 40 detainees when President Joe Biden, a Democrat, took office in 2021. Biden has said he hopes to close the facility. The federal government is barred by law from transferring Guantanamo detainees to US mainland prisons.
On February 23, the Pentagon announced the repatriation of two brothers Abdul Rabbani and Mohammed Rabbani to Pakistan.
The brothers will be reunited with their families after formal questioning by Pakistani authorities, according to Pakistani senator Mushtaq Ahmed Khan.
Khan said the men were “innocently imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay for 21 years. There was no trial, no court proceedings, no charges against them. Congratulations on their release. Thank you Senate of Pakistan,” he wrote on Twitter.
Sen. Mushtaq Ahmed Khan who is also the chairman of the human rights committee in the upper house of Pakistan’s Parliament, tweeted on February 24 that the two brothers had reached the airport in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
He later told The Associated Press that the brothers were being sent to Karachi, the capital of southern Sindh province, where they lived with their families. He said he hoped the men will be reunited with their families soon.
The two brothers were originally transferred to US custody after Pakistani officials arrested them in their home city of Karachi in 2002. They were sent to Guantanamo Bay in 2004.
According to the Pentagon’s website, Abdul Rabbani was an al-Qaeda facilitator while Mohammed Rabbani was a financial and travel facilitator for prominent al-Qaeda leader.
“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 in a statement.
A total of 32 detainees remain, of whom 18 are eligible for transfer, the Pentagon said in its statement. — With inputs from Reuters