[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
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 Pentagons
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
governments 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.
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
Courts 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 Bushs 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
governments 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 Courts ruling, Boumediene v. Bush, are
to allow courts to review the governments
reasons for holding the men as enemy combatants.
The militarys enemy-combatant hearings, which
the administration says permit indefinite
detention, are separate from the Pentagons
effort to prosecute some detainees in military commission trials.
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