Battle brewing over Guantanamo and its Chinese Muslim prisoners
A big battle is brewing over the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Chinese Muslim inmates held there.
The Supreme Court announced Tuesday it would decide whether federal judges have the power to order the release of the ethnic Uighur prisoners into the United States.
The White House and Congress argue the inmates have never been admitted into the United States under U.S. immigration laws, and judges should not be making those sorts of decisions.
To underscore the point, the U.S. Congress Tuesday approved a spending bill that includes a measure effectively prohibiting Guantanamo prisoners from being released into the United States. The measure would admit them only to face trial.
President Barack Obama has pledged to close Guantanamo by Jan. 22, 2010, but meeting that goal has become increasingly difficult.
Few countries are willing to accept any of the approximately 220 inmates, and the United States continues to debate what to do with them.
Many of them had traveled to Afghanistan for weapons training in order to fight the Chinese government before Sept. 11, 2001, and fled to Pakistan after the outbreak of hostilities.
They were captured and handed over to U.S. custody and have been held at Guantanamo Bay for nearly eight years.
Five of the original group of 22 Uighurs were transferred to Albania two years ago. Four more were sent to Bermuda in June.
Solicitor General Elena Kagan told the Supreme Court in a letter Sept. 23 that the south Pacific island of Palau had agreed to accept 12 of the remaining 13 Uighurs.
But only six of the 12 have agreed to resettle there.
Meanwhile, pressure is increasing on the White House to close Guantanamo.
Tom Andrews, a former Democratic congressman from Maine, announced the launch Tuesday of the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo.
He was joined by retired Lieutenant General Robert Gard and retired Brigadier General John Johns.
Attacks on closing the prison are “pure politics at its worst,” Andrews said.
The campaign unveiled a new advertisement to air on cable television and the Internet.
Photo credit: Reuters/Deborah Gembara (View inside common area of medium security prison at Guantanamo; guard tower at Camp X-Ray detention facility)