Swiss Take Two Guantánamo Uighurs, Save Obama from Having to Do the Right Thing

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by Andy Worthington
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
www.andyworthington.co.uk
4 February, 2010

Congratulations to the Swiss Canton of Jura, which recently accepted the asylum claims of two Uighur prisoners at Guantánamo, and to the Swiss federal government for agreeing to accept Jura’s decision on Wednesday.

The two men in question — Arkin Mahmud, 45, and his brother Bahtiyar Mahnut, 32 — were seized with 20 other Uighurs in December 2001. The US authorities realized almost immediately that all of these men, who are Turkic Muslims from China’s Xinjiang province, had only one enemy — the Chinese government — and had been seized (or bought) by mistake. However, although the majority of the men were cleared for release by 2005, the Bush administration accepted that it could not return them to China, because of fears that they would face torture or other ill-treatment, but then struggled to find another country that would take them instead.

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Uighur prisoner asks what is the difference between the US constitution and the Communist constitution? by Andy Worthington

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by Andy Worthington
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
www.andyworthington.co.uk
4 November 2009

At the weekend, six of the remaining 13 Uighurs in Guantánamo — Muslims from China’s Xinjiang province — were released to resume new lives in the tiny Pacific nation of Palau (population: 20,000). I have written at length about the plight of Guantánamo’s Uighurs, innocent men caught up in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, who were mostly seized and sold to US forces by Pakistani villagers after fleeing a settlement in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountains where they had been living a Spartan live for several months, free from Chinese oppression. Some were hoping to make their way to Turkey, to find work, but had found their way hard, and had been advised to seek out the settlement; others nursed futile dreams of rising up against the Chinese government, and, while working to make the settlement habitable, occasionally shot a few rounds on their only weapon, an aged Kalashnikov.

I have also written about how the US authorities knew, almost immediately, that these men had no connection to either al-Qaeda or the Taliban, but how, nevertheless, they flew them to Guantánamo, allowed Chinese interrogators to visit them, and tried, in their tribunals at Guantánamo, to make out that they were connected to a Uighur separatist group, which, obligingly had been designated by the Bush administration as a terrorist group to secure leverage with the Chinese government in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

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Six Uighurs Go To Palau; Seven Remain In Guantánamo by Andy Worthington

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by Andy Worthington
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
www.andyworthington.co.uk
31October 2009

As first reported by the Associated Press, six of the remaining 13 Uighurs in Guantánamo have just arrived on the Pacific island of Palau, where they have been given new homes. The AP’s source said that, overnight, police were guarding the house where the men will live, in the heart of the capital, Koror.

This partly solves one of President Obama’s outstanding problems at Guantánamo, as there were 17 Uighurs (Muslims from China’s Xinjiang province) at Guantánamo when Obama took office, and they had already been waiting for three and a half months to be released, after District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina ordered their release into the United States in October 2008. Judge Urbina did so because the government had failed to contest the Uighurs’ habeas corpus petition (after a devastating court defeat in June 2008), because they could not be returned to China, where they were at risk of ill-treatment or worse, because no other country had been found that would take them, and because their continued detention was unconstitutional.

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