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Six More Uyghurs Freed

November 5, 2009

Another cohort of Uyghur detainees is freed from
Guantanamo to a Pacific island.
Radio Free Asia
October 31, 2009

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 --Six Uyghur men held for
seven years in U.S. military custody at
Guantanamo Bay have been released and have now
reached the tiny Pacific island of Palau,
authoritative sources have told Radio Free Asia (RFA).

The men were identified as Adel Nury, 40; Ahmed
Tursun, 38; Abdulghappar Abdulrahman, 36; Anwar
Hasan, 35; Edhem Mohammed, 31; and Dawud Abdulrehim, 35.

They landed in the early hours of Sunday after a
17-hour direct military flight, along with three
U.S. lawyers, Rushan Abbas, a longtime translator
for the Uyghur detainees at Guantanamo Bay, said
in a telephone interview, citing contacts with the men and their lawyers.

A new Uyghur translator was flown in from
Australia and was to remain indefinitely, she said in an interview.

No comment was immediately available from the
administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

They were among a larger group of 22 ethnic
Uyghurs captured in Pakistan and Afghanistan and
sold for bounty to U.S. forces after fleeing the
mountains in the wake of U.S.-led raids,
following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

They say they were living as refugees in
Afghanistan, having faced religious persecution in China

Four were transferred to Bermuda in June 2009
while five others were resettled in Albania in
2006. One man in that group has since resettled in Sweden.

Seven men left

The transfer of these six men leaves seven in
U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, who say they
cannot return to China for fear of persecution.

The United States maintained that the men had
attended terror-training camps, and they were
flown to Guantanamo Bay in June 2002.

The Republic of Palau is an island nation in the
Pacific Ocean, some 500 miles (800 kms) east of
the Philippines and 2,000 miles (3,200 kms) south of Tokyo.

After a series of military tribunals and
courtroom battles, they were cleared of links to
global terrorism -- but most governments refused
to take them in for fear of angering Beijing, which regards them as terrorists.

The U.S. Supreme Court this month agreed to
review the cases of all remaining Uyghur prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

The group was originally ordered released into
the States in October last year by U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina here.

But his decision was overturned after an appeals
court ruled that District Court judges don’t have
the authority to order the transfer of
­foreigners into the U.S.; only Congress and the executive branch do.

Uyghurs in China

Millions of Uyghurs -- a distinct, Turkic
minority who are predominantly Muslim -- populate
Central Asia and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous
Region (XUAR) of northwestern China.

Ethnic tensions between Uyghurs and majority Han
Chinese settlers have simmered for years, and
they erupted in rioting in July that left some
200 people dead, according to the government’s tally.

The six men may have difficulty reaching their
relatives in the XUAR because Chinese authorities
have imposed a telephone and Internet blackout
over the whole region in an apparent bid to avoid further ethnic violence.

Twelve people have since been sentenced to death
in connection with the violence, which was the
worst the country has experienced in decades.

Uyghurs say they have long suffered ethnic
discrimination, oppressive religious controls,
and continued poverty and joblessness despite
China's ambitious plans to develop its vast northwestern frontier.

Chinese authorities blame Uyghur separatists for
a series of deadly attacks in recent years and
accuse one group in particular of maintaining
links to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Original reporting by Radio Free Asia.
Sarah Jackson-Han News Director, English Radio
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