One year and two weeks ago, District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered that 17 Uighur prisoners at Guantánamo be released into the United States. Muslims from China’s Xinjiang province, the Uighurs were seized and sold to US forces by Pakistani villagers in December 2001, after they had fled a settlement in the Afghan mountains, where they had ended up after fleeing Chinese oppression.
One of the men had secured a resounding court victory last June, when appeals court judges ruled that the government had failed to prove that he was an “enemy combatant,” involved in any way with either al-Qaeda or the Taliban, and in the wake of this ruling the government abandoned all pretense that any of other 16 men were “enemy combatants” either.
Four and a half months ago, 17 unjustly detained prisoners in Guantánamo wrote a letter to President Obama asking for their release. In the secretive world of Guantánamo, however, nothing is straightforward, and it has taken over four months for the letter to be cleared by the government’s censors and sent on to the White House.
The men who wrote the letter are Uighurs, Muslims from China’s Xinjiang province, who had fled their homeland because of Chinese persecution, and were sold to US forces by opportunistic Pakistani villagers during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
In the interview, Sibel says that the US maintained ‘intimate relations’ with Bin Laden, and the Taliban, “all the way until that day of September 11.”
These ‘intimate relations’ included using Bin Laden for ‘operations’ in Central Asia, including Xinjiang, China. These ‘operations’ involved using al Qaeda and the Taliban in the same manner “as we did during the Afghan and Soviet conflict,” that is, fighting ‘enemies’ via proxies.
As Sibel has previously described, and as she reiterates in this latest interview, this process involved using Turkey (with assistance from ‘actors from Pakistan, and Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia’) as a proxy, which in turn used Bin Laden and the Taliban and others as a proxy terrorist army.
As the Chinese government tries to control the situation in Xinjiang following riots there, critics say Beijing’s policies are partly to blame for the outbreak of ethnic violence.
Fighting between Han and Uighur factory workers in the industrial south is said to have sparked the Xinjiang riots. Now the two groups are becoming increasingly separate, as Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan reports from Shaoguan in Guangdong province.
In recent months, those who have been studying Guantánamo closely have come to the disturbing conclusion that the biggest obstacle to President Obama’s pledge to close Guantánamo by January 2010 comes not from the fearmongering and opportunistic politicians who recently voted to prohibit the use of any funds to release or to transfer prisoners to the United States, and who also authorized legislation that “requires the President to report periodically to Congress on the status of Guantánamo Bay detainees and plans for their transfer,” but from the administration’s own Justice Department.
Echoing the position taken by the Bush administration, Eric Holder’s Justice Department is pursuing patently indefensible cases that should have been dropped before being presented to a judge, and is also engaged in what appears to be a systematic policy of delays when it comes to providing exculpatory material to the prisoners’ defense teams (in other words, material that tends to disprove the government’s case), or, in fact, any other material that is vital to mounting a proper defense. Moreover, when given the option to defend a judge’s right to order the release of prisoners against whom no case could be proved, the Justice Department sided with a notoriously pro-Bush judge in the Court of Appeals, who ruled that, although a District Court judge could demolish the government’s case against a Guantánamo prisoner, he or she was powerless to actually order the prisoner’s release.
I have just received disturbing information from several Uighur correspondents in the United States, regarding the “riots” that began just nine days ago in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China.
When the unrest began, the world’s media suddenly discovered the story of the Uighurs, who describe their situation as akin to that of the Tibetans, but without the popular support. Once known as East Turkestan, the Uighurs’ long-contested homeland was conquered by the People’s Liberation Army in 1949, and anyone even remotely familiar with recent Uighur history will be aware that, in the 1960s, Mao Zedong encouraged Han Chinese to settle in the area in large numbers, and that the Uighurs — some of whom came to the attention of the West when 22 refugees were sold to US forces and imprisoned in Guantánamo — maintain that, as a result, they are marginalized and persecuted in their own country.
Report From Urumqi: Thousands of Chinese Troops Enter City Torn by Ethnic Clashes
Thousands of Chinese troops have flooded into the regional capital of the country’s western-most Xinjiang province following bloody clashes between the city’s Han Chinese and Uighur populations. Four days after the violence that left at least 150 dead and over a thousand injured, reports indicate an unsteady calm has returned to the city of Urumqi. We go to Urumqi to speak with Al Jazeera English correspondent Melissa Chan.[includes rush transcript]
Some of the following videos may contain images depicting the reality and horror of war/violence and should only be viewed by a mature audience.
Uyghur Protests Widen as Xinjiang Unrest Flares
New protests have erupted in China’s western Xinjiang region, two days after at least 156 people were killed and over 1,000 wounded in the country’s worst ethnic violence in decades. On Tuesday, some 200 ethnic Uyghurs–mostly women–took to the streets to protest over the mass arrest of more than 1,400 people following Sunday’s clashes. Later, hundreds of ethnic Han Chinese marched through the streets of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province. The two sides blame each other for the outbreak of violence.[includes rush transcript]
Today I was delighted to be invited into a London studio for an interview about Guantánamo on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. The show, which airs on over 750 stations, is described as “pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US,” and it was, therefore, a great pleasure to be able to talk about the case of Abdul Rahim al-Ginco (or al-Janko), the al-Qaeda torture victim whose release from Guantánamo was ordered yesterday following a habeas corpus review by Judge Richard Leon. Memorably, Judge Leon (an appointee of George W. Bush) lambasted the government for attempting to claim that, despite being tortured by al-Qaeda to admit to being an American spy, and then being imprisoned for 18 months by the Taliban, al-Ginco retained some sort of connection with either group that justified his indefinite detention. This was, he said, a sign that the government’s position “defies common sense.” Continue reading →
Let’s face it, when it comes to Guantánamo, there’s little to laugh about, unless you’re an Islamophobic sadist — in which case, there’s still nothing for the rest of us to laugh about.
The Associated Press reports that, in a desperate effort to rid itself of the toxic human debris of Guantánamo, the Obama administration is eyeing up the tiny Republic of Palau, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, some 500 miles (800 km) east of the Philippines, to dispose of some, or all of the 17 Uighurs in Guantánamo.
The Uighurs are Muslims from China’s Xinjiang province, who were swept up in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, and sold to US forces by Pakistani villagers after fleeing from a run-down hamlet in which they had sought solace from their Chinese oppressors, or, in many cases, because they had found themselves unable to make their way to Turkey or Europe, to look for work, as they had originally intended.
On Monday, just hours after the first war crimes hearing for four months was convened at Guantánamo, and just hours before the Pentagon announced that a sixth prisoner had died, apparently by committing suicide, the small group of reporters — “less than a dozen,” according to Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star — who had made the trip to watch a military judge commend the Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr for being “well-spoken” and “professional,” while criticizing his lawyers for their infighting, witnessed what Shephard called “a rare unscripted moment on the base,” when two prisoners staged “an impromptu protest.”
On Friday, court-watchers received some deeply depressing news — 33 pages of unconstitutional hogwash directed at the Supreme Court by President Obama’s Justice Department (PDF), in which no stone of dubious legality was left unturned in the administration’s desperate and unprincipled attempts to mimic its predecessors by preventing 17 Uighurs at Guantánamo from being resettled in the United States. Continue reading →