Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Release of Chinese Muslims Ordered

A federal judge has ordered that 17 men detained at Guantanamo Bay be brought to his courtroom in Washington on Friday, where Judge Ricardo Urbina indicated he plans to release him. The 17 are Uighurs, a Muslim minority that lives largely in Xinjiang Province in the northwest corner of China, who were picked up in Afghanistan in 2002 as part of the United States War on Terror.

The White House is condemning Judge Urbina's order, saying it threatens the security of the country and could potentially lead to terrorists being let loose on the streets of America.

And here's where the story gets stupid.

The government has admitted that the 17 Uighurs aren't terrorists and have given up trying to prove that they're "enemy combatants" - the catchall term for people we suspect of being aligned with anti-American terror groups. But the problem for the Uighurs is that they are an oppressed minority within China - the Uighurs say that they were in Afghanistan in the first place because they were trying to escape harassment from the Chinese government in Xinjiang, which has tried to undermine the Uighur culture, closed their mosques and imprisoned many on flimsy (or non-existent) charges. If the 17 men were shipped back to China they would likely be imprisoned and killed by Chinese authorities. The Bush Administration admits this, so they won't send the Uighurs back (that at least is the one good thing they're doing in this situation), but at the same time, they won't give them asylum here. The administration's answer is to find some third country that will accept them (like Albania, check out this story from the BBC on the long, strange trip of six Uighurs released in 2006).

And until they do find a country for them they think that Guantanamo is a fine place for the Uighurs to stay - despite the fact that we've given up trying to prove they did anything wrong, or that they were a threat to America. Apparently Judge Urbina also has a problem with warehousing people in a prison for no apparent reason, thus his order for the Uighurs to appear in his court on Friday.
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