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Homeland Security

Ethnic Uighurs Held at Guantanamo Since 2002

By Suzanne Presto
17 May 2009

Roughly 240 detainees are still being held at the U.S. military prison at Guatanamo Bay, Cuba. Among them are 17 ethnic Uighurs, Muslims from western China, who have been held in Guantanamo since 2002. This is despite a U.S. determination that they are not enemy combatants.

The Uighurs have been going through the U.S. court system in an attempt to leave Guantanamo, where they are being held without charge.

When asked if his state of Virginia would be willing to accept the Uighurs, Democratic Senator Jim Webb answered with an unequivocal "No."

"On the one hand, it can be argued that they were simply conducting dissident activities against the government of China," he said. "On the other, they accepted training for al-Qaida and as a result they have taken part in terrorism. I don't believe they should come to the United States."

That final sentiment was shared by Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, who appeared opposite Webb on the Sunday ABC television program This Week with George Stephanopolous.

The United States has refused to send the Uighurs back to China, as China has requested, claiming the Uighurs would face persecution if repatriated.

Last October, a federal judge ruled the men should be transferred to U.S. soil since Washington no longer considers them "enemy combatants." But the administration of then-U.S. President George W. Bush argued the judge did not have the authority to free them and an appeals court overturned the decision.

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