The Future of Guantanamo Bay Detainees

A. The biggest single problem group are 17 Muslim Chinese Uighurs, not because they are believed to be committed terrorists, but because they would almost certainly face persecution, torture or even death if they were sent home to western China. They had fled their homeland and were picked up in Pakistan in 2001, accused of taking terrorist training before they were flown to Guantanamo Bay. U.S. authorities have already declared that they are no longer considered to be "enemy combatants." Five Uighur detainees, no longer considered to be a threat, were released and resettled in Albania in May 2006.

Q. Have any former prisoners from Guantanamo posed any kind of threat since their release?

A. Yes. Said Ali al-Shihri, who did six years at Guantanamo, has resurfaced as a leader of a Yemeni branch of al Qaeda and posted a picture of himself on a militant Web site on Jan. 23, 2009. Al-Shihri, prisoner No. 372, was released in 2007 to Saudi Arabia for rehabilitation. His group has been implicated in several attacks on the U.S. Embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sana. A second man claiming to be a former prisoner at Guantanamo also appeared on the Web site.

Saudi Arabia announced this week that it had rearrested nine Islamist militants, including former Guantanamo prisoners sent to its re-education program in Riyadh. But more than 500 former prisoners have been sent home from Guantanamo Bay or been accepted by other countries, apparently without major incident, so far.

Q. What about those Guantanamo prisoners who will have to face trial?

A. The Obama administration is working out what kind of legal process would be just and admissible. Much of the evidence against those charged would be inadmissible in civilian courts since it was obtained under duress. The military commissions carried out under the Bush administration have been suspended because they lack the legal safeguards guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and international law. The Obama administration is exploring the possibility of a kind of "hybrid" between civilian courts and military courts martial. As Obama himself said recently, "It's more difficult than I think a lot of people realize."

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