East Turkestan: Munich Accepts Guantanamo Uyghurs
The German city of Munich, home to the biggest community of ethnic Uyghurs outside China, has offered to host the 17 members of the Chinese minority held at Guantanamo Bay, authorities said Friday [6 February 2009].
A city hall official confirmed a report in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily that the municipal council had supported a motion to this effect put forward by the Green party Thursday [5 February 2009].
However the offer will need approval from the cross-party government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, which is divided on the issue of taking inmates from Guantanamo after Washington closes the prison for terror suspects on Cuba.
Social Democrat Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is in favour of taking in some freed prisoners while Christian Democrat Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaueble is against.
The case of the Uyghurs arrested in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and held at Guantanamo for the past seven years is exceptional.
All have been cleared of terrorist activity but Washington has declined to repatriate them to China for fear they would be persecuted or tortured.
Beijing has demanded the return of the 17, who it says were part of a U.N.-listed terror group seeking an independent homeland in the Uyghur-populated Xinjiang region.
Lawyers for three of them have filed applications for refugee status in Canada, prompting a warning from Beijing Thursday [5 February 2009]
"We have expressed our position many times about those Chinese terrorists detained in Guantanamo. We are opposed to any country accepting those people," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing. "We hope the parties concerned can resolve conveniently this issue according to the international laws and regulations".
Uyghurs, who are mostly Muslim, form the largest ethnic group in northwest China's Xinjiang region that borders Central Asia.