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Here "Uighur" Again

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May 7, 2009

On Wednesday, we filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to hear the case of the Uighurs — a group of 17 Chinese Muslims that have been detained at Guantánamo for over seven years without charge.

In October 2008, a federal judge ruled that the men should be freed into the U.S. because the Pentagon no longer considered them enemy combatants and no other country would accept them. However, in February, a federal court of appeals ruled that the judge had overstepped his power in ordering the men’s release, and that only the executive branch had the authority to release the men into the U.S. — leaving the group of men in legal limbo.

A month ago, lawyers representing the Uighurs asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appeals court decision denying their release. And Wednesday, we filed a brief in support of their petition to the Supreme Court. The central issue before the Supreme Court: can a federal court order the release of the prisoners in the U.S.?

As an ethnic minority, the Uighurs have long been repressed in China, and if they return, they’ll likely be persecuted and tortured. Political pressure from China has dissuaded Albania, which accepted five Uighurs a few years ago, from accepting any more. In fact, the fear of diplomatic repercussions from China has scared the rest of the world from accepting them.

The Uighurs have been wrongly imprisoned without charge for over seven years. Releasing them is the only real remedy to this injustice, and bringing them to the United States would be an example to other countries to provide a safe haven for released detainees.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the date that we filed our amicus brief. We filed the brief on Wednesday, May 6, not Thursday, May 7.