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Feb-20-2009 09:33printcomments

Lawyer for Guantanamo Bay Uyghurs Vows To Fight

The Chinese government says the men are members of the outlawed East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which Beijing and Washington regard as a terrorist organization.

Guantanamo detainees
Guantanamo detainees include residents of the historically Muslim region of China. Photo:

(WASHINGTON D.C.) - The lead lawyer for 17 ethnic Uyghurs held for years at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba is vowing to fight a new legal order keeping the men in U.S. military custody and is calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to free them quickly, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

“We are bloodied but unbowed. We will fight this,” Sabin Willet, who represents the 17 Uyghurs—Muslims from China's northwestern Xinjiang region—said in a telephone interview on his way back from visiting the men at Guantanamo Bay.

“Precisely what our next legal filing will be we have not decided, but the courts have not heard the last from us,” said Willet, who spent all day Thursday with the detainees and translator Rushan Abbas at Guantanamo.

“There is a mechanism for seeking further review in the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court is a second option.”

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed an earlier ruling that the Uyghurs—who have been cleared of the terrorism charges on which they were initially detained—must be released in the United States.

The panel said a federal judge who ordered the men released into the United States in October 2008 lacks the authority to make such a ruling, and that only the executive branch can make such a determination.

The Uyghurs have remained at Guantanamo because the United States has been unable to find a country willing to take them and won't return them to China because they would face persecution there.

Albania, which took in five other Uyghurs in 2006 after they were released from Guantanamo, has balked at welcoming the others—apparently fearing reprisals from Beijing.

The 17 detainees “are deeply disappointed and frustrated,” Willet said. “They were a few hours from freedom on Oct. 9… This is a long time to be in a military prison. There is deep disappointment and frustration among these men.”

“At the same time we mean to remind President Obama every day that this is his problem. The court concluded that the courts can’t solve this problem, and that’s wrong, but that’s what they concluded,” Willet said.

Obama “can solve this problem, and he should do it, and he should do it tomorrow morning,” he said.

Willet said his clients were being held in better conditions recently, with military officials “working hard in the last two weeks to arrange calls” between the detainees and their families.

The Uyghur detainees resettled in Albania have tried to send letters to the Uyghurs still held at Guantanamo, he said, although whether they reached Guantanamo was unclear. He also said his request for a phone call to his clients from the Uyghurs in Albania hasn’t been met.

Previous order

The Obama administration has vowed to close Guantanamo within a year but hasn’t decided what to do with the 245 detainees still held in custody there.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled in October that there was no evidence the detainees were "enemy combatants" or a security risk and ordered them freed to live with Uyghur families in the United States.

The Chinese government says the men are members of the outlawed East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which Beijing and Washington regard as a terrorist organization. Beijing blames ETIM for a series of violent attacks inside China in recent years.

Uyghurs twice enjoyed short-lived independence after declaring the state of East Turkestan during the 1930s and 40s, and many oppose Beijing’s rule in the region. Chinese officials have said Uyghur extremists plotted terrorist strikes during the Beijing Olympics.

Original reporting by Sarah Jackson-Han in Washington.

Source: Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting and publishing online news, information, and commentary in nine East Asian languages to listeners who do not have access to full and free news media.

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Thomas February 22, 2009 12:52 pm (Pacific time)

Tim King I was explaining very clearly how past enemy leaderships have inculcated their subordianates with false stories about us American combatants so they would fight to the death, causing more casualties for us. This is a matter of historical record. As I stated below I would not be surprised if an uptick in casualties will happen in today's different battlefronts. The terrorists are big on suicide, so if they hear that western troops will not take pow's anymore, an uptick will most likely happen. Regardless of what war I fought in, I'm quite sure other combatants know exactly what I'm talking about. If Obama closes the Cuban facility, which I really doubt that he will, but if he does, fewer POW's will be taken in my opinion. That is not a hateful comment on my part, once again it is a matter of historical record.

Thomas February 21, 2009 10:10 am (Pacific time)

When you are captured on a battlefield that is populated with terrorists, would it be prudent for your, and others safety, to detain these people for further questioning to determine their status? Our military have experts that are trained in interrogation techniques to ascertain the status of these individuals. Those who have been on the battlefield have a better understanding of what the real world is all about. Pretty soon there will be fewer and fewer POW's. During WWII, the Japanese leadership told their soldiers they would be killed if captured, ditto for North Vietnamese leadership. This caused many unneccesary deaths. I would not be surprised if an uptick of a similar nature will happen now. Those who have had to fight in these circumstances could care less about an enemies rights, nor should they if they want to survive on the battlefield. I have been on the battlefield, I no what I'm talking about.

Tim King: I don't believe you Thomas; I think you're blowing smoke. In your last message you stated that you were a Vietnam vet. That tells me you don't know anything about Iraq and I sincerely think you are making up this hateful stuff anyway. People are smarter than you apparently assume.

Vic February 21, 2009 7:51 am (Pacific time)

That "clang" I just heard was Dorsett hitting the nail right on the head !

Dorsett Bennett February 20, 2009 5:23 pm (Pacific time)

Snoozer--In what used to be the American System of Justice, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Just how do you know the 17 men are terrorists? Are you omnipotent and all knowing? I suspect not, but rather you were one of the sad and ignorant neoconservative foot soldiers who are tremendously disappointed that their side has lost power. As a real traditional conservative [paleoconservative] I am less than thrilled with some of the policy positions of Obama, but shudder to think what would've happened if the neoconservative idiocy would have continued under McCain. During the primaries I supported the best Republican candidate, Ron Paul, for whom most of the Republican primary voters were unable to see this, because of the unfortunate location of their heads. :-)

Anonymous February 20, 2009 12:23 pm (Pacific time)

American people suffer every day, and no one cares. Terrorists blow themselves up and kill innocent people and the scumbag lawyers from the ACLU hold their hands and feel sorry for them. Pathetic. When do the American people get the treatment they deserve?

Awake February 20, 2009 11:59 am (Pacific time)

You know this for a fact snoozer? What where they charged with? Glad to be a citizen of the U.S. here where one must be proven guilty of something. (or at least that used to be) What country are you from snoozer?

Rick February 20, 2009 11:46 am (Pacific time)

Snoozer I'm pretty sure that they will get their due before long, as well as there will probably be less captured enemy in the future that can be later released to kill more innocents, including western peoples. There are explicit policies and implied policies on the field of combat.

Snoozer February 20, 2009 10:37 am (Pacific time)

And they're terrorists. Please explain the value in releasing them to go back to attempting to kill other people?

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