Tuesday, October 7, 2008

In setback for Bush, judge orders release of Guantánamo detainees

October 8 2008

A US federal judge yesterday ordered the release into the United States of 17 Chinese Muslims who have been held at the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay, a ruling that dealt a setback to the Bush administration.

District Judge Ricardo Urbina gave his ruling at a hearing to consider the appeals by members of the Uighur ethnic group, who are seeking their release from the military prison and asking to go to the US.

He said there was no evidence that the detainees, who have been held at Guantánamo for nearly seven years, were enemy combatants or a security risk, and said that the US constitution prohibited indefinite detention without cause. He ordered them to be brought to the court for a hearing on Friday.

The Bush administration had argued that federal judges do not have the authority to order the release of the detainees into the US.

Lawyers for the prisoners said the ruling marked the first time that a federal court had ordered the release into the US of prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay.

The Uighurs remain at the prison even though the US military no longer considers them enemy combatants. The US has been unable to find a country willing to accept them. It has said they would face persecution if they were returned to China.