Obama Administration Wins Latest Round In Keeping Uighurs from US Soil

By Lindsey Ellerson

Mar 1, 2010 6:12pm

ABC News' Ariane de Vogue reports:

The Obama administration has won —for now—its dramatic  battle to keep 5 Uighurs who are currently housed in Guantanamo Bay from entering US soil.

Twenty two  Uighurs–—members of a Turkic Muslim minority from China— had been picked up in Pakistan in 2001 and sent to the detention center as enemy combatants.

The US government later determined the men were of no threat to the United States but that they could not be returned to their homeland out of fear of persecution. China considers the men terrorists. 

 The US government began the painstaking task of finding third country parties willing to take the men.  Several countries including Albania, Bermuda, and the pacific island of Palau agreed to resettle some of the Uighurs.

In the meantime, American lawyers for the Uighurs went to court and won their argument that the men—who had no place to go– should be released on US soil, an argument the United States vigorously opposed.

While the issue was pending on appeal the Obama administration stepped up its efforts to find countries to take the remaining men. The administration was fearful that the Supreme Court, which has been  critical of claims of executive power during the war on terror, might rule in favor of the Uighurs. 

With only two days to spare before a  Supreme Court filing deadline,  the government announced it had found countries to take the remaining 5 Uighurs.

Today , in response to the government’s assertion that each Uighur had a country willing to take him, the  Court ordered a lower court to review the issue. In the unsigned order the Court  said  "underlying facts may affect the legal issues presented", 

Although the issue won’t reach the high court this term, it could very well make a return appearance next term as the government and the legal system sort out what to do with detainees left in Guantanamo Bay.

- Ariane de Vogue

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