After nearly seven years in captivity, seventeen men held at Guantanamo Bay even though the Bush administration admitted they were innocent long ago, were ordered released into the U.S. by a federal court on Tuesday.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, which has led the way in pressing for legal rights for detainees, reports:
The 17 men currently imprisoned at Guantanamo left China amid increasing political oppression and found their way to Afghanistan, where they lived in small Uighur communities. In late 2001, they were forced to flee the aerial bombardment of the surrounding areas. Eventually, they made their way to Pakistan in the belief that they would be safer there. After crossing into Pakistan, the Uighurs were welcomed and fed by Pakistani villagers who then turned them over for generous bounties offered by the United States.
Last week, after years of litigation, the U.S. government finally conceded that none of these men would be treated as “enemy combatants.” All were cleared for release long ago. However, because of the stigma of their detention at Guantánamo and for fear of offending China, no other country had agreed to offer these men safe haven. Despite this failure to find a third country to take them, the government argued that the court could not release them into the U.S. and, therefore, that the men would have to stay at Guantanamo indefinitely.
It's simply amazing how many detainees at Gitmo - and in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq - were rounded up on the basis of finger-pointing for bounties. It's also simply amazing how little media attention the practice gets, even when it leads to massacres like the recent one of over fifty children in Afghanistan.
Fewer than half of the detainees held at Guantanamo have ever been accused of hostile acts. There rest are almost entirely due to the bounty payment system.
As far as I can figure, the administration believed that releasing these men into the U.S. would establish a prcedent for other detainees found innocent - one the administration didn't like as it would put those released to close the the American public's view and so point up its own illgal acts of rendition, torture and imprisonment without just cause or fair trial.
“In the history of our Republic, the military never imprisoned any man so harshly, and for so long, let alone men who are not the enemy. We have broken faith with the rule of law, and been untrue to the generosity of spirit that is our national character,” said Sabin Willett, Partner at Bingham McCutchen who argued the case for the detainees today.
Update: The federal appeals court has temporarily blocked the 17 mens' release until at least October 16th, to give the Bush administration time to consider an appeal.
The court said the temporary, administrative stay "should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits" of the government's request.
...In seeking a stay, the Justice Department told the appeals court that diplomatic negotiations continued in an effort to find an appropriate country to send the detainees.
"We are pleased that the court of appeals granted our request for a temporary stay, and we look forward to presenting our case," department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said.
Scumbags! These 17 people are innocent and they admit it. Why on earth appeal their release unless they're trying to avoid unpleasant spilling of the beans about conditions at Gitmo until after the elections?