Palau (Who?) to Take in 17 Uighurs

By Caitlin Taylor

Jun 10, 2009 8:27am

The obscure Pacific nation of Palau, one of the world's youngest and tiniest countries, has agreed to take in the 17 Uighurs — Muslim Chinese — currently being held at Guantanamo.

President Johnson Toribiong announced in a statement to the Associated Press that Palau "agreed to accommodate the United States of America's request to temporarily resettle in Palau up to 17 ethnic Uighur detainees." He said their resettlement in Palau would be "subject to periodic review."

The announcement followed a visit to Palau by Ambassador Daniel Fried, the Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the Department of State who has been tasked with placing the remaining 240 detainees at Guantanamo.

The US government has pledged $200 million in aid to Palau, but a White House official denied that money, for development assistance, had anything to do with the Uighurs going to Palau.

Just a few days ago, the Obama administration asserted before the Supreme Court that the Uighurs have no right to come to America despite a district judge's orders last Fall that they immediately be brought to the U.S. and released.

Toribiong said Palau, located 500 miles east of the Philippines and 2,000 miles south of Tokyo, with a population of around 21,000, is "honored and proud" to resettle the detainees.

"Palau's accommodation to accept the temporary resettlement of these detainees is a humanitarian gesture intended to help them be freed of any further unnecessary incarceration and to restart their lives in as normal a fashion as possible," Toribiong said. The country consists of eight main islands and more than 250 islets.

Asked about the president's statement, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said, "As you know, we’re working closely with our friends and allies regarding the resettlement and repatriation of Guantanamo detainees. As a matter of policy, we’re not going to comment on our bilateral discussions with individual countries. It’s really up to the – our partners to characterize the level of their involvement."

Formerly part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, Palau gained its independence on October 1, 1994. The U.S. is responsible for Palau's defense. The country is mostly Christian.

- jpt

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