Uyghur: Campaigners in US Seek Immediate Release from Guantanamo
WASHINGTON: Campaigners in the United States are pushing for the release of 17 Chinese Uighurs who are being held in Guantanamo Bay.
The Uighurs from the Xinjiang province were captured in the mountains of Pakistan as they fled from Afghanistan in late 2001.
Protesters have been highlighting their case in front of the White House in Washington.
Last October, a US court ordered that the 17 Uighurs be released and brought to the United States. The Bush administration then blocked their release by appealing the decision.
Now campaigners are urging the Obama administration to drop its objections.
Mr Matthew Daloisio of 'Witness Against Torture' said: "The 17 Uighurs in particular have gone through the process that the Obama administration is proposing already.
"We know that they are not enemy combatants, these are innocent men who have been in jail since 2002. And the only thing standing in the way of their release is an appeal that the Bush administration filed. So that need to be lifted immediately and these men need to be released immediately."
The Chinese government believes the 17 Uighurs are members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is on a UN list of terrorist groups.
China wants the men returned home to face trial. But an Obama administration official says the US cannot return them for fear that they would be mistreated. The US is instead considering other countries like Switzerland, or even the United States itself.
Mr Daloisio added: "We have worked with different communities in the United States, there is a Uighur community who is willing to take them in and ready to take them in.
"All the pieces are in place, it's just a matter of a simple phone call and a piece of paper, and these men will have some little bit of justice after seven years, more than seven years, of indefinite detention."
In Washington, there is already a Uighur community willing to resettle the men, offering an interesting proposition. If the Uighurs in Guantanamo Bay are released and allowed to settle in the United States, many of them may end up in the US capital.