Two Uighurs Released from Guantanamo

Posted April 20th, 2012 at 4:55 am (UTC-5)
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The Pentagon says two members of China's Muslim Uighur minority have been released from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and resettled in El Salvador. The men had been held without charge for nearly a decade.

The Chinese government has demanded the return of the Uighurs from Guantanamo, but Washington has refused Beijing's demands to repatriate the men, saying the Uighurs would face almost certain persecution in China. The U.S. has been looking for countries willing to accept the Uighurs.

The transfer of the two Uighurs to El Salvador has reduced Guantanamo's population to 169, including another three Uighurs who have also been cleared for release. The resettlement was the first one since 2011.

Other Uighur Guantanamo prisoners have been resettled in Albania, Bermuda, Palau, and Switzerland.

The Uighurs who have been held at Guantanamo were captured near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in late 2001.

The Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking, mainly Muslim ethnic group living in far western China. Beijing accuses some Uighurs of involvement in Islamist terrorism. Chinese officials have also blamed Uighur groups for several violent uprisings in the Xinjiang region.

Uighurs and Han Chinese clashed in ethnic rioting in 2009, resulting in the deaths of 197 people.

Nury Turkel, a lawyer for the Uighurs held at Guantanamo, told VOA the Uighurs were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and could have been released as early as 2003.

“This whole Guantanamo story for the Uighurs are nothing but mistake. The Uighurs have become both during the Bush administration and the Obama administration prisoners of domestic and international politics. “