China voices anger over release of Uighur Guantanamo trio
2 January 2014, 16:27
China voiced anger Thursday over the transfer of three Uighurs from the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay to Slovakia, branding them 'terrorists' who will pose a threat to their new home.
The trio were freed earlier this week as part of Washington's efforts to close the jail, and were the last of 22 Uighurs to be held in the prison, with the others being resettled in six countries including Albania, Bermuda, El Salvador, Palau, and Switzerland.
Beijing had previously protested about the release of the men, who it says have links with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which the United Nations lists as a terrorist group and which China accuses of having separatist aims in Xinjiang.
'We are firmly opposed to the US transfer of these suspects to a third country, and we are also opposed to any other countries' acceptance of them,' foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing Thursday.
'The aforementioned suspects are members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is a terrorist organisation designated by the UN Security Council. Therefore, these prisoners are terrorists.
'They not only pose a threat to the national security of China but also will pose a threat to the security of the recipient country.'
The three had been cleared for release from Guantanamo in 2008 but Washington refused to return them to China because of the potential consequences, and had struggled to find a third country to take them in amid protests from Beijing.
Campaign groups regularly complain of rights abuses against mainly Muslim Uighurs, the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang, by the authorities and dismiss claims of terrorism and separatism as an excuse by Beijing to justify religious and security restrictions.
Three members of China's Uighur ethnic minority have been released from the US Guantanamo Bay detention center for terror suspects and sent to Slovakia, US officials said on Tuesday.
The three - Yusef Abbas, Hajiakbar Abdulghuper and Saidullah Khalik – became the last remaining Uighurs to leave Guantanamo after nearly 12 years in detention without trial . They were erroneously captured in Afghanistan, where they had fled to escape persecution in China, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the US and were taken to the Guantanamo prison along with some two dozen other Uighur captives over their suspected affiliation with the Taliban. They were brutally interrogated during the early days of their detention and subject to sleep deprivation, frigid temperatures and isolation in later years.
Eventually, however, the US Defense department came to a recognition that the Uighur detainees did not pose a security threat, and the State Department concluded that it could not remedy the detention error by sending the Uighurs back to China.
After a US court ordered their release and a panel appointed by the Obama Administration upheld the ruling, the Uighur detainees were transferred to a facility separate from the rest of the Guantanamo detainees. Their treatment was less severe, they were not free men.
In 2006, Albania agreed to take five the Guantanamo Uighurs, others were released to the United States and then went to live in different places such as Bermuda, the Pacific island of Palau or El Salvador. The remaining three that were still in Guantanamo refused to go to Palau or Bermuda and wanted to be closer to Uighur communities in other parts of Europe.
The diplomatic breakthrough came when Slovakia agreed to allow the last of Guantánamo's Uighur population to "voluntarily resettle", according to a statement from the Pentagon's press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby.
Obama promised to shut the Guantanamo prison during his first presidential campaign in 2008 and then after his re-election for a second term. But five years later, the notorious jail is still open.
Voice of Russia, The Globe and Mail, The Guardian, AFP
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