A US district judge ordered the Bush administration Oct. 7 to release 17 Uighur detainees from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, ruling that the Constitution forbids their indefinite detention without cause. Judge Ricardo Urbina of the US District Court for the District of Columbia gave the government two days to release the Chinese Muslims into the United States, marking the first time that a US court has ordered Guantanamo detainees to be freed. Urbina rejected arguments by the Justice Department that the court could not require the Uighurs’ release without violating the doctrine of separation of powers. He further ordered immigration authorities not to take the Uighurs into custody upon their arrival in the US.
In June, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ordered the government to release or transfer one of the Uighurs from Guantanamo, ruling that he had been improperly designated as an enemy combatant. In March, one of the Uighurs wrote in a letter released by his lawyers that the detainees had not been told why they were being held at the military facility. The government has previously linked the Uighurs with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a militant group that calls for separation from China and has been a US-designated terrorist organization since 2002. The Uighurs have remained at Guantanamo while US officials have been seeking countries willing to accept their resettlement. (Jurist, Oct. 7)