[Ppnews] Federal Judge Orders Release of Chinese Muslims

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Oct 7 18:59:47 EDT 2008

Federal Judge Orders Release of Chinese Muslims


Published: October 7, 2008

WASHINGTON ­ A federal judge on Tuesday ordered 
the Bush administration to immediately release 17 
Chinese Muslims who have been held for seven 
years at 
Bay, and to allow them to stay in the United 
States, because they are no longer considered enemy combatants.

The ruling, handed down by Federal District Judge 
Ricardo M. Urbina, marked the first time that any 
United States court rejected government arguments 
and ordered the release of detainees from 
Guantánamo Bay, an American naval base in Cuba, 
since the detention center there opened in 2002.

Judge Urbina said that the detention of the 17 
prisoners ­ members of the Uighur ethnic group, a 
restive Muslim minority in western China ­ was 
unlawful, noting that the Constitution prohibits 
indefinite imprisonment without charges.

“I think the moment has arrived for the court to 
shine the light of constitutionality on the 
reasons for the detention,” he said.

The judge ordered the 17 detainees, all of whom 
are men, brought to his courtroom next Friday, 
but the government suggested that it would 
immediately appeal the ruling, and that perhaps 
officials might detain the men on their arrival in the United States.

The judge reacted angrily, saying he did not want 
the detainees molested by anyone in the 
government, in what he called an urgent matter.

“There was a pressing need to have these people, 
who have been incarcerated for seven years ­ to 
have those conditions changed,” Judge Urbina said.

He rejected a request from the Justice Department 
for a stay of his orders, suggesting that he was 
impatient with the government. “All of this means 
more delay,” he said, “and delay is the name of the game up until this point.”

who were detained in Afghanistan in 2002, say 
they have never been enemies of the United 
States. They were cleared of suspicion in 2004, 
but they have remained in detention because of 
controversy over where they could go. They say 
they would be persecuted or killed if they were 
returned to China, but efforts to find a home for 
them have been complicated by fears in many 
countries of diplomatic reprisals from China.

In 2006, Albania gave refuge to five Uighurs from 
Guantánamo despite protests from the Chinese 
government. The Bush administration, which has 
refused to admit the other 17 to the United 
States, said it had failed to find any other country willing to take them.

On Tuesday, the Chinese government demanded that 
all Uighurs held at Guantánamo Bay be repatriated to China.

In June, federal appeals judges issued a decision 
that ridiculed as inadequate the Pentagon’s 
secret evidence for holding one of the Uighurs, 
Huzaifa Parhat, a former fruit peddler who said 
he had gone to Afghanistan to escape China.The 
government argued that the 17 detainees should be 
held at Guantánamo Bay until a country could be 
found for them. In filings, Justice Department 
lawyers argued that while Judge Urbina could hear 
the Uighurs’ case, he could not order their 
release because the judiciary “simply has no authority” to do so.

The Justice Department contended that the 
government’s executive branch, not the judicial 
branch, had the authority to conclude military 
detentions, as it had in previous wars. It noted 
that in World War II, “no court ever questioned 
that it was solely for the political branches ­ 
not the courts” ­ to decide how Italian prisoners of war were handled.

P. Sabin Willett, one of the Uighurs’ lawyers, 
said such claims appeared to be laying the groundwork for government appeals.

When the 
Court ruled in June that detainees at Guantánamo 
Bay had the right to challenge their detention in 
federal court, the justices said that after more 
than six years of legal wrangling, the prisoners 
should have their cases heard quickly, because 
“the costs of delay can no longer be borne by those who are held in custody.”

Until now, none of the scores of cases brought by 
detainees have been resolved by any judge.

Since the Supreme Court issued its ruling, 
lawyers for most of the 255 detainees in 
Guantánamo Bay have pressed ahead with 
corpus petitions, yet most of those cases have 
been delayed by battles over issues like whether 
some court sessions will be held in secret, 
whether detainees can attend them, and what level 
of proof will justify detention.

Some of the arguments made by the Justice 
Department appear to challenge the Supreme 
Court’s conclusion that the federal courts have a 
role in deciding the fate of the detainees. 
Officials and lawyers inside and outside of the 
government say the new legal confrontation 
suggests that the Bush administration will 
probably continue its defense of the detention 
camp until the end of President Bush’s term and 
that it is not likely to close the camp, as 
administration officials have said they would like to do.

“The legal issues that are being raised by the 
administration are going to take longer than the 
remaining time of the administration” to resolve, 
said Vijay Padmanabhan, an assistant professor at 
Cardozo Law School who was until July a State 
Department lawyer with responsibility for detainee issues.

“It is part of a broader strategy,” Mr. 
Padmanabhan added, “which is not to make 
difficult decisions about Guantánamo and leave it to the next president.”

Detainees’ advocates say that the administration 
is using the legal battle to delay judicial 
review of its evidence, while government lawyers 
argue that the cases are moving rapidly 
considering that they are unprecedented.

A Justice Department spokesman, Erik Ablin, said 
the government was working toward quick hearings 
for detainees, but was determined to take every 
precaution to avoid having dangerous people 
released. He added that “it is certainly the 
government’s goal to detain enemy combatants who 
are deemed a threat to the United States.”

Habeas corpus suits, which have their root in 
centuries-old English law, are generally 
streamlined proceedings for prisoners to force 
officials to explain why the prisoners are being 
held. The Guantánamo cases permitted by the 
Supreme Court’s ruling, Boumediene v. Bush, are 
to allow courts to review the government’s 
reasons for holding the men as enemy combatants.

The military’s enemy-combatant hearings, which 
the administration says permit indefinite 
detention, are separate from the Pentagon’s 
effort to prosecute some detainees in military commission trials.

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