View Full Version : Finland turns down US request to give asylum to Chinese Muslims held in Guantanamo

26-08-05, 09:05

Finland turns down US request to give asylum to Chinese Muslims held in Guantanamo

A group of 15 Chinese Muslims, or Uighur, being held in the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are still being kept at the prison, although they had been cleared for release nearly two years ago.

The Washington Post reports that the US does not know what to do with the prisoners. Experts believe that if they were sent to China, they could face torture or execution.

The US has asked about 20 countries, including Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey to give them asylum.

Johanna Suurpää, head of the human rights policy unit of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, confirmed on Thursday that Finland was approached on the matter some time ago.

Finland urged the United States to discuss the issue with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as Finland takes all of its quota-based refugees on the basis of proposals from that organisation.

"If the proposal had come from them, we might have been able to consider it", Suurpää says.

The US Defense Department reportedly ordered the release of 15 of the Uighur already in late 2003, and again in March this year.

Five of the group had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were captured by Pakistani bounty hunters in order to cash in on the rewards offered by the United States for Muslim extremists in the area.

Ten of the prisoners were classified as "fairly harmless". They had operated against the Chinese Communist government.

Seven of the Uighur were classified as "enemy combatants" and were kept imprisoned.

The prisoners' lawyers and human rights groups have appealed to the United States to grant asylum to the innocent Uighurs.

The US State Department says that it is continuing its efforts to get the men released. A State Department official described the situation as "unfortunate".

Some of the prisoners slated for release are still kept in shackles. Most of their families do not know if they are alive.

Lawyer Sabin P. Willet, who has taken the case of two of the Uighurs on a voluntary basis, said after a visit to Guantánamo that one of the men was chained to the floor in a windowless room.

Willet says that the prisoners were not told for a long time that they were to be released.

Helsingin Sanomat