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Asia-pacific

US Supreme Court agrees to hear 13 Uighurs' plea for release

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-10-20

The US Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear a request from 13 ethnic Uighur inmates held at Guantanamo Bay to be freed in the United States, despite measures forbidding the release of former Guantanamo detainees on US soil.

The US Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear a request from 13 ethnic Uighur inmates held at Guantanamo Bay to be freed in the United States, despite measures forbidding the release of former Guantanamo detainees on US soil.

A federal judge last year ordered that the Uighurs, who have been cleared of all charges, should be released in the United States, where other members of the Uighur community have expressed their willingness to take them in.

The judge’s decision was overturned on appeal. Lawyers for the Uighurs then requested that the Supreme Court rule on freeing their clients.

The US House of Representatives (lower house) voted last week to allow Guantanamo Bay prisoners to be brought to US soil for trial, but the measure expressly forbids the release of former detainees in the United States.

The Supreme Court will take up the Uighurs’ case in early 2010. US President Barack Obama has, however, vowed to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, which still holds some 220 people, by January.

It is uncertain what this will mean for those whose cases are awaiting review.

The Uighurs, who have been held at Guantanamo for more than seven years, were captured in Afghanistan after the US-led October 2001 invasion to overthrow the ruling Taliban. They were accused of having trained in Al-Qaeda camps and transferred to the US military base in Cuba.

A Turkic-speaking Muslim group originally from parts of Central Asia, the Uighurs are a minority in China’s Xinjiang region and have long faced political and religious discrimination. The US administration fears the detainees will face additional persecution if they are returned to China.
 

Date created : 2009-10-20

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