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October 7, 2008 2:49 PM

Judge Orders Release of Chinese Muslims Held at Gitmo

Posted by Daphne Eviatar

A federal judge today ordered the release of 17 Chinese Muslims who have been held by the U.S. government without charge for the last seven years at Guantánamo Bay. U.S. district court judge Ricardo M. Urbina in Washington, D.C., rejected the Bush administration's assertion that it could indefinitely hold these detainees, who are members of the Uighur ethnic group. The Department of Justice on September 30 informed the court that it no longer considered the Uighurs to be "enemy combatants." Justice had said that it could not find a country willing to accept the detainees, and the United States refused to allow them to be released into this country.

Today, the judge held that it is unconstitutional for the United States to continue to hold Uighurs.

"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," said Sabin Willett, a partner at Bingham McCutchen who argued the case for the detainees and has been representing them for years in their petitions for habeas corpus.

Religious and community leaders from Tallahassee and the Washington D.C. area have offered to help the men settle in the U.S., offering assistance with everything from housing and counseling to employment and car insurance.

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