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01-08-05, 22:50
Uyghur American Association - Press Release

Legal bid in Washington DC to release two Guantanamo Uyghurs

For Immediate Release
August 1, 2005, 7:00 p.m. EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association, 1 202 349 1496

(WASHINGTON, DC August 1, 2005.) Today in the United States District
Court for the District of Columbia a motion was heard to release Abu
Bakker Qassim and A’del Abdul Al Hakim, two Uyghurs currently detained
in Guantanamo Bay. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Sabin Willett of Bingham
McCutchen LLP, argued that his clients were determined on March 26,
2005 not to be “enemy combatants” by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal
(CSRT), and should therefore now be released.

The Uyghur American Association (UAA) wholeheartedly supports the
petition calling for the release of Mr. Qassim and Mr. Al Hakim, and is
hopeful the court will agree to the motion as soon as possible. “We
would be overjoyed if these men were released,” said Nury Turkel,
President of the UAA. “Of course, they must not be returned to China
but it is untenable that they still remain in detention after being
cleared by the CSRTs.”

Mr. Qassim and Mr. Al Hakim are two of several Uyghurs held in
Guantanamo determined not to be enemy combatants. However, not all of
them have legal counsel, and their families may not even know they are
alive. For instance, Mr. Al Hakim’s sister was not even aware he was
alive until she heard about a Boston Globe article on her brother’s
case being discussed on a Uyghur-language Internet forum.

Even prior to the official assessment that Mr. Qassim and Mr. Al Hakim
along with other Uyghurs in Guantanamo were not a threat, the US
government said they would not be returned to China where they would
almost certainly face persecution, including torture and possibly death
sentences. In their homeland of East Turkistan, which the Chinese
government has labeled the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Uyghurs
face numerous human rights violations including denial of the rights to
freedom of speech, association and religion.

Since the tragedy of September 11, 2001 the plight of the Uyghurs has
worsened. Uyghurs have been charged with separatism and terrorism for
actions as simple as publishing books, translating newspaper articles
and teaching their children the Koran. The Bush administration has
stated that the Chinese government should not use the war on terror as
a pretext to repress people within the People’s Republic of China.
Other Uyghurs who left China and fled to neighboring countries have
been forcibly returned, some after receiving UN Refugee status, and
have been imprisoned and even executed.

Mr. Willett suggested in his petition that the men could be released
and granted use of the separate US military’s civilian facilities in
Guantanamo Bay, including an affordable hotel, movie theatres and
common retail outlets. He also suggested that they could be brought to
Washington, D.C. to testify at the US District Court.

The two men were reportedly taken captive by the Pakistani military in
Pakistan in late 2001 or early 2002, and then handed over to the US
military several months later. The men had met each other in Kyrgyzstan
after both leaving East Turkistan in 2000. Both men had intended to
work a passage through to Turkey where they hoped to live and work
within the large exiled Uyghur community there.

Rebiya Kadeer, a former prisoner of conscience recently released from a
Chinese prison, expressed the hopes of the Uyghur community in the US
that these detainees will eventually be released and allowed to settle
in the US. “We believe these men have been wrongly imprisoned in
Guantanamo and are hoping a permanent resettlement solution is found.
The Uyghur community here would be happy to provide support for them
should a decision be made to offer them asylum in the United States.”

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Uyghur American Association/ Uyghur Human Rights Project
1700 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20006
Tel: +1 202-349-1496
Fax: +1 202-349-1491
www.uhrp.org
www.uyghuramerican.org