East Turkestan: Guantanamo Uyghurs' Strange Odyssey
Below is an article written by Neil Arun and published by BBC News;
Sipping orange juice before their midday prayers sit three men once treated as terrorists by two of the world's most powerful nations.
Ahmed Adil, Adil Abdul Hakim and Abu Bakr Qassim were despatched to
In their native
Fearing they would face torture or death if handed over to
How the Uyghurs' transfer reveals a new trend in the "war on terror"
From the safety of a cafe in the Albanian capital, Tirana, Abu Bakr says
"We are being killed because we want the right to pray together - because we want to keep our beards and traditional dress," he says.
Despite four years' wrongful imprisonment in
"But you cannot compare
Abu Bakr and at least two of the five Uyghur men freed from
They say Chinese police tried to discourage their foreign visits by intimidating them and extracting bribes.
Abu Bakr began to plan a foreign trip overland towards
He joined a larger group of would-be migrants and they set off through the neighbouring post-Soviet republics of
Within days of their arrival, Jalalabad was under attack. US fighter pilots had the Taleban stronghold in their sights as they bombed the hardline Islamist government out of office.
The men left for
But word had spread that the Americans were offering large sums of money for al-Qaeda suspects. The tribesmen tipped off the authorities and traded their Uyghur guests for the bounty.
The men were taken back to
Then they were flown to
The group of 18 Uyghurs stuck together at the Cuban prison camp teeming with terror suspects from around the world.
"We exchanged religious greetings with some of the Arabs," Abu Bakr says. "But there was no way of forming any friendships."
As for the guards, he says, "most of them behaved like robots".
"There were some good ones who showed us kindness and there were others who went out of their way to offend us - throwing around our copies of the Koran, making farting noises while we prayed."
But the men say they are still haunted by the memory of the 13 fellow Uyghurs arrested with them who remain in the prison camp.
"We appeal to the
According to Jason Pinney, a lawyer who campaigned for the men, the cases of the 13 Uyghurs still in detention "are factually indistinct from the released men".
"We believe this demonstrates the arbitrariness of detention at
Nuri Turkel, a former president of the Uyghur-American Association, says the Uyghurs at
"The irony is that in many cases the
The men were initially unsettled by the prospect of settling in
"We were scared because we thought
But they say they were pleasantly surprised. "We've received a lot of help here," Adil says. "Albanian people are very welcoming and there are many Muslim brothers here."
The men plan to learn the Albanian language and eventually find work here. Locals talk of hiring them in the security industry. Others say they could cash in on their "celebrity" by establishing
The hardship of making a new life in an alien country has been eased by the friendship between the five men - a bond forged in
When they arrived in
"We always knew we were brothers in Islam," Abu Bakr laughs. "Now we know we are true brothers - blood brothers!"