Mar 25, 2010

East Turkestan: Uyghur Gitmo Detainees Arrive in Switzerland

Sample ImageTwo Chinese Uyghurs freed from the US prison at Guantanamo Bay have arrived in Switzerland, Swiss authorities said Wednesday ( 23 March 2010), after the pair were granted asylum despite Beijing's opposition.


Below is an article published by: The Global Times

"The two Uyghurs with Chinese citizenship, who were granted admission for humanitarian reasons by Switzerland, have arrived in canton Jura," the Swiss federal government said in a statement. "The two were neither charged with any crime nor condemned by the US authorities. Today they are free again." The brothers were among 22 Uyghurs seized at a camp in Afghanistan after the US-led bombing campaign began there in 2001, a month after the 9/11 attacks.

China said the men were members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, a terrorist group blacklisted by the US and the UN Security Council. According to China, the group was responsible for at least 200 terrorist attacks between 1990 and 2001, killing more than 162 people. The group also threatened to sabotage the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and claimed responsibility for several incidents in China that year.

After Bern formally decided to take in the two Uyghurs last month, Beijing warned that the move would "surely undermine" bilateral relations. "All countries must adhere to UN Charter chapter 7 and reject providing asylum to those who fund, plan, commit or abet a terrorist act," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in early February. In the end, Swiss authorities defied Chinese pressure and granted the brothers asylum following requests from the US to take in the former "war on terror" suspects from the prison in Cuba.

When contacted by Global Times reporters, a counselor from the Chinese embassy in Bern said on condition of anonymity that the arrival of the Uyghur brothers brought complexity to China-Switzerland relationships. "We firmly object the Swiss federal government's decision to receive those two terror suspects," the official said. "We don't want to see the issue being hyped by the media or used by some groups as a tool against China." Citing "the sensitivity of the issue," the official refused to say what counter measures the embassy would adopt.

This is not the first time Bern has helped Washington clean up the Guantanamo mess. Another former Guantanamo detainee, originally from Uzbekistan, has been living in Switzerland in asylum since the beginning of the year.