REUTERS - The Obama administration has sent six Uighur Chinese detainees from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the Pacific island nation of Palau, the Center for Constitutional Rights said on Saturday.
The transfer leaves 215 detainees at the detention camp which President Barack Obama has pledged to close by Jan. 22, though political and legal hurdles are making it difficult for his administration to meet that goal.
Palau has agreed to take up to a dozen Uighurs who come from China’s largely Muslim far-west region of Xinjiang and were captured by the U.S. government during the Afghanistan war launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
Four Uighurs have already been transferred to Bermuda.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, a group based in New York that has represented many Guantanamo prisoners, said a total of six Uighurs had landed in Palau. Three of them are clients of the center while the other three are represented by other lawyers.
The departures occurred after the Supreme Court rejected the administration’s position and said on Oct. 20 that it would hear an appeal by the Uighurs who argue that they should be released in the United States.
However, Obama signed into law legislation Congress passed barring the release of any detainees from Guantanamo into the United States.
Congress has required the Obama administration to tell lawmakers when they plan to move detainees and then wait 15 days if they were being sent overseas or 45 days before they could be brought to U.S. soil for trial or detention.
China has demanded the Uighurs be returned there but the U.S. government has said it could not do so because they would face persecution, and it has searched for months for a nation willing to accept them.