Friday, August 26, 2005

Judge Asks Status of Gitmo Detainees

ABC News
Judge Asks Status of Gitmo Detainees
Bush Administration Asked What It's Doing About Two Guantanamo Detainees Cleared for Release
The Associated Press

Aug. 26, 2005 - A federal judge called on the Bush administration Thursday to explain what it was doing about two detainees who are being held at Guantanamo Bay prison camp even though the military has concluded they are not enemy combatants.

A Justice Department lawyer, Terry Henry, said the two Chinese Muslims, in custody for over 3 1/2 years, will be kept at Guantanamo until the government finds a country to send them to.

The Uighur detainees, members of a minority in their native China, fear persecution if they are returned to their homeland.

"We can continue to hold them as long as it takes," Henry told U.S. District Judge James Robertson.

The judge suggested it was not enough for the two men to be held in improved conditions in a renovated section of Guantanamo Bay that has videogames, a microwave, ice cream and a soccer field for the 10 detainees housed there. All have been found not to be enemy combatants.

The 10 are "free to roam 24/7" at Camp Iguana in Guantanamo Bay, Henry told the judge.

The "big picture" is that the two have already been held for nearly six months after being found not to be enemy combatants, Robertson responded.

A'Del Abdu Al-Hakim and Abu Baker Qassim were captured in Pakistan as they fled a Taliban military training camp near Tora Bora, Afghanistan in 2001. They say they are deeply opposed to the government of China and have no animosity toward the United States.

Hakim has said representatives of the Chinese government tried to interrogate him at Guantanamo Bay, telling him that he was lucky the Pakistanis had turned him over to the Americans rather than the Chinese.

The U.S. government has said it has been unable to find a country that will accept the Uighurs. The judge went into a closed-door session so that the federal attorney could describe the diplomatic efforts the United States has undertaken to place the prisoners.

Sabin Willett, a lawyer for the two, is asking the judge to embark on a legal path that could result in the prisoners' interim release into the United States. A family in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., has offered to take them in.

Robertson took no immediate action on Willett's request.