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Uyghur News
11-06-09, 15:10
The Chinese Muslims, or Uighurs, landed on the holiday island this morning after being held at the US base in Cuba for seven years after being picked up in Afghanistan.

But their arrival on an island better known for beaches and international finance houses took its colonial overlords by surprise.

The Bermuda government failed to consult with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the decision, provoking a diplomatic row which could result in the men having to be sent back to Cuba.

Britain complained to Ewart Brown, Bermuda's premier, that it should have been consulted on what it considers a security issue.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We have underlined to the Bermuda government that it should have consulted the UK on whether this falls within their competence or is a security issue for which the Bermuda government do not have delegated responsibility.

"We have made clear to the Bermuda government the need for a security assessment which we are now helping them to carry out."

Asked whether the men might be sent back to Cuba, a Foreign Office spokesman said: "We don't know yet. We're looking into all possible next steps."

The American government ruled four years ago that the men were not enemy combatants and had gone to Afghanistan simply to escape persecution in China.

But attempts to resettle them in the United States faced a backlash, so Barack Obama was grateful when Mr Brown made it clear earlier that his small but wealthy island was keen to help out.

Observers pointed out that the US president has vowed to close down tax havens. Such a move would be a severe blow to Bermuda, home to a large number of American companies, particularly in insurance.

Mr Brown said that the four will be allowed to live in Bermuda initially as refugees but would be permitted to seek citizenship.

They would have the right to work, travel and "potentially settle elsewhere", he said.

Mr Brown said negotiations with Washington over settling the Uighurs began last month. He said he had no security concerns because the men had been cleared by US courts, which meant it was merely an immigration matter.

However, he stressed that the process was "not complete" as the island's British governor was "seeking to further assess the ramifications of this move" before allowing it to happen.

"Our colonial relationship with the United Kingdom certainly gives him licence to do so," Mr Brown added.

The four men were among 17 Uighurs picked up in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They come from the remote western province of Xinjiang where they say they have been persecuted by the Chinese.

Many countries have refused to take them for fear of offending China, which today said they were terrorists and demanded their return.

The US – which has rejected the Chinese demands on the grounds the Uighurs may be tortured – hasn't resettled any since 2006, when five went to Albania.

One of the Bermuda four, Abdul Nasser, thanked the island, saying in a statement: "Growing up under communism we always dreamed of living in peace and working in free society like this one. Today you have let freedom ring."

Alim Seytoff, general secretary of the Uighur American Association, said the community was grateful to Bermuda but hoped the four could eventually resettle in a country such as the US or Germany where they could find support from other Uighurs.

Sabin Willet, one of two lawyers who accompanied the men, said: "Nations need good friends. When political opportunists blocked justice in our own country, Bermuda has reminded her old friend America what justice is."

Bermuda is one of 14 British overseas territories which look to the United Kingdom for foreign policy and security.


Uyghur News
11-06-09, 15:26
From Times Online
June 11, 2009
Foreign Office fury over settlement of Guantánamo Uighurs in Bermuda

Philippe Naughton

The British Government responded with ill-disguised fury tonight to the news that four Chinese Uighurs freed from Guantanamo Bay had been flown for resettlement on the Atlantic tourist paradise of Bermuda.

The four arrived on Bermuda in the early hours, celebrating the end of seven years of detention after learning that they were to be accepted as guest workers.

But it appears that the Government of Bermuda failed to consult with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the decision to take in the Uighurs – whose return is demanded by Beijing – and it could now be forced to send them back to Cuba or risk a grave diplomatic crisis.

Bermuda, Britain's oldest remaining dependency, is one of 14 overseas territories that come under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, which retains direct responsibility for such matters as foreign policy and security.

"We've underlined to the Bermuda Government that they should have consulted with the United Kingdom as to whether this falls within their competence or is a security issue, for which the Bermuda Government do not have delegated responsibility," an FCO spokesman said.

"We have made clear to the Bermuda Government the need for a security assessment, which we are now helping them to carry out, and we will decide on further steps as appropriate."

The four freed men – Abdul Nasser, Huzaifa Parhat, Abdul Semet and Jalal Jalaladin – were among 17 men from the largely Muslim Chinese minority groups still held in Guantanamo Bay.

After seven years of extra-judicial detention, the men did not appear to mind which island paradise they ended up in – and formally thanked for Bermuda for taking them.

“Growing up under communism, we always dreamed of living in peace and working in free society like this one,” Abdul Nasser, one of the four, said in a statement released through his lawyers. “Today you have let freedom ring."

It was reported yesterday that all 17 Guantanamo Uighurs were to be temporarily rehoused on the South Pacific island paradise of Palau as President Obama moves to close down the hated detention camp.

The 17 were part of a group of 22 Uighurs allegedly captured by Pakistani bounty hunters in Afghanistan after the US-led invasion in October 2001 and taken to Guantanamo Bay the following year.

US authorities ruled four years ago that they were not involved in extremism and had gone to Afghanistan to escape persecution in China. Five of them were resettled in Albania but attempts to rehouse the others in the United States ran foul of public opinion.

For the past four years, the Uighurs have been held at Camp Iguana, a low-security facility in Guantanamo Bay, with views of the Caribbean and pizza deliveries.

After news that Palau, a former US territory, had agreed to take in the Uighurs, China today demanded that they be sent back there to be tried as terrorists – but the United States refuses to do so.

Palau's decision appeared to be linked to a US offer of $200 million in "development and budget aid", but it was not clear whether Bermuda had been offered a similar amount.

Ewart Brown, the Bermudian Premier, said that the United States had agreed to bear the costs associated with relocating the men on the island.

In a statement, Mr Brown said the men have “the opportunity to become naturalised citizens and thereafter afforded the right to travel and leave Bermuda, potentially settling elsewhere", although he said that the resettlement of the inmates was still contingent on the advice from Britain.

Mr Brown said he felt a responsibility to help the men “who have been caught in a web of reaction to tragic events which at the time of their happening were not well understood".

“Those of us in leadership have a common understanding of the need to make tough decisions and to sometimes make them in spite of their unpopularity, simply because it is the right thing to do,” he said.

Sabin Willet, one of two lawyers who accompanied the men, hailed Bermuda for its “act of grace". He said: “Nations need good friends. When political opportunists blocked justice in our own country, Bermuda has reminded her old friend America what justice is."


11-06-09, 16:43
send them to the moon or mars ... what a shamelessness...