View Full Version : High court won't free 2 detainees

18-04-06, 10:37

WASHINGTON The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a bid by two Chinese Muslims for immediate release from the Guantánamo Bay center where they have been held for years despite a government finding that they were wrongly classified as enemy combatants when captured in Pakistan.

The government had decided not to send the two - and a number of other Uighurs - back to China, where the detainees fear they would face torture or even execution by a government that considers them part of an illegal armed group, based in Xinjiang Province.

"It is the policy of the United States," the government stated in a footnote to a Supreme Court filing, "not to return individuals to countries where it is more likely than not they will be tortured."

American authorities refuse to release the Uighur detainees inside the United States, and diplomatic efforts to find a home have been unsuccessful.

The court declined the case without comment, giving no indication of its thinking in this latest legal dispute over the sweeping powers the administration has claimed in dealing with those arrested as terror suspects.

The government says that the two men, ethnic Uighur separatists from western China named Abu Bakker Qassim and A'del Abdu al-Hakim, received weapons training near Tora Bora, Afghanistan, at a Taliban-supplied camp.

They were captured by government forces in Pakistan after seeking shelter there as the U.S. assault on Afghanistan intensified following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Pakistan turned the men over to U.S. forces, which classified them as enemy combatants and sent them to the U.S. base at Guantánamo, on the Cuban coast.

But an American military tribunal determined that the men posed no threat to the United States - they reportedly had sought military training to use against the Chinese government - and that they could be freed. The government says the determination was made in March 2005; defense lawyers say the decision came secretly in 2003.

P. Sabin Willett, a Boston attorney representing the two men, said that the military has found at least five other Uighurs eligible for release, out of perhaps 23 at Guantánamo.

Paul Clement, the U.S. solicitor general, said in the government filing that "substantial ongoing diplomatic efforts" had been made to transfer the men to another country. But entreaties to countries including Norway and Switzerland have been rebuffed.

The German media reported Saturday that Washington had been pressing Berlin to accept 15 Uighurs. Several exiled Uighurs already live in Bavaria.

But the German government is wary of offending China, according to the daily Die Welt, which cited unnamed U.S. and German diplomatic sources. Chancellor Angela Merkel is to pay her first official visit to China next month. She is also scheduled to pay her second visit as chancellor to Washington.

Clement stated in the government filing that the Uighurs are being held in a part of Guantánamo called Camp Iguana, along with other detainees found not to pose a threat. There, he said, they have "access to a television set with VCR and DVD capability, a stereo system, recreational items (for activities such as soccer and volleyball), unlimited access to a shower facility, air conditioning" and special food.

But defense lawyers pointed to hunger strikes and suicide attempts by some of the 500 foreigners held at Guantánamo. Willett, in his appeal, wrote of an "intensifying whirlpool of desperation." A federal judge had said the men's detention was unlawful but that federal courts could not order their release; while the government clearly had the power to exclude aliens from the country, no country had been found willing to accept the men.