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moderator
05-05-06, 19:43
Another day in court for representatives of the Guantanamo Uyghurs

For immediate release
May 5, 2006, 1:00 p.m. EDT
Contact: Uyghur American Association, +1 202 349 1496

(Washington, DC, May 5, 2006.) Members of the Uyghur American Association (UAA) will turn out in numbers at the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on the morning of Monday May 8 to attend an appeal hearing into the release of two Uyghurs, currently held in Guantanamo Bay.

UAA members in the United States, mainly based in the Washington, DC area, are hoping that the court will order that the men must be released into the care and custody of the Uyghur community.

Both men, Abu Bakker Qassim and Adel Abdu Al Hakim, were cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay by the US Department of Defense in March of last year, but legal complexities and difficulties finding a country where they can be re-settled have meant they remain in detention.

“We’re hopeful that this will be the day their release is confirmed,” said Nury Turkel, President of the UAA. “They’re extremely patient men, and they’re being extremely dignified about their continuing detention – they actually feel bad that their case may make the US look bad – but everyone knows now they should be free, and we’re here to help towards that end.”

Members of the UAA including Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, the former prisoner of conscience and human rights activist, worked out exactly what the Uyghur community can offer in terms of accommodation and any other assistance the men will need when they are released into the Uyghur-American community.

Uyghur community leaders have also pledged to abide by any and all conditions put on the men’s release, and will work in full co-operation with all relevant authorities to ensure that those conditions are met.

“As the US authorities have confirmed, these men are not terrorists; rather, they were just in the wrong place at wrong time,” said Mr Turkel. “The Uyghur community and the Uyghur American Association are here today to express our desire to do whatever we can to help our adopted country the United States resolve this situation. For Uyghur-Americans, this is an incredible opportunity for us to pay back to the United States some of the freedom, generosity and opportunity we ourselves have received here,” added Mr. Turkel.

Qassim and Al Hakim are two of as many as 15 Uyghurs who have been cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay, but who cannot be returned to China for fear of persecution. The UAA membership estimates it has the resources to provide accommodation and other essential requirements for a maximum of six detainees in total, should it be decided that more Uyghurs can be released into the US.

Background

According to the transcripts of their tribunal hearings, Abu Bakker Qassim and Adel Abdu Al Hakim were among a total of 19 Uyghurs picked up and sold to US forces in Pakistan by bounty hunters in 2002. All of the men had left East Turkistan at different times and by different routes, eventually meeting together in a remote mountain settlement in Afghanistan, which they then fled in the wake of US bombing raids against Taliban positions.

They were eventually transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where Qassim and Al Hakkim were found by military tribunals to not pose any threat to the US or her allies, and therefore judged suitable for release.

However, information about their legal status in Guantanamo Bay was extremely slow in emerging, and it was only until several months after they had been cleared for release that the men’s lawyers were informed of the tribunals’ decisions.

The US government had already ruled out returning the men to China, citing well-founded concerns that they would be persecuted – tortured and even executed – if they were sent back. But the US government also ruled out re-settling the men in the US, and said efforts were being made to secure re-settlement in a third country. To date though, no third country has yet agreed to receive any Guantanamo detainee who is not a citizen of that country.

In August of last year, Judge Robertson at the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that Abu Bakker Qassim and Adel Abdu Al Hakim’s continued detention was unlawful; however, Judge Robertson added that he was unable to order their release into the US because he did not have the authority to rule on what was deemed an immigration matter.

Between that ruling and the appeal being heard on Monday morning, the UAA filed an amicus brief in February and March of this year both to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and to the US Supreme Court, urging the courts to order the release of the men seeing as their continued detention had already been ruled unlawful. Six retired federal judges also filed an amicus brief at the same time, calling for the same outcome. However, the US Supreme Court declined to consider the brief prior to the Court of Appeal reviewing Judge Robertson’s decision on Monday.

See also:

August 1, 2005
Legal Bid in Washington DC to Release Two Guantanamo Uyghurs
http://www.uhrp.org/press_releases/legal_bid_to_release_two_guantanamo_uyghurs

December 23, 2005
Judge Robertson rules indefinite detention of Uyghur detainees is unlawful
http://www.uyghuramerican.org/news/uyghur_related/judge_robertson_rules_indefinite_detention_of_uygh ur_detainees_is_unlawful/

March 23, 2006
US Supreme Court faces call to release Guantanamo Uyghurs
http://www.uhrp.org/press_releases/us_supreme_court_faces_call_to_release_guantanamo_ uyghurs

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Uyghur American Association/ Uyghur Human Rights Project
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Tel: +1 202-349-1496
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www.uhrp.org
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