Lawyers for the US Department of Justice defended the six-year detention of Huzaifa Parhat, a Chinese Uighur Muslim, at Guantanamo Bay in oral arguments before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit April 4. The US claims Parhat is an “enemy combatant” due to his ties with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a group that calls for independence from China and was designated a terrorist organization by the US State Department in 2002. The DoJ acknowledged that Parhat did not fight against the US and that there is no evidence that he intended to do so, but said he can still be held under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Act because ETIM is affiliated with al-Qaeda.
In 2006, five Chinese Uighur detainees were released to Albania, where officials reviewed applications for asylum. The transfer, which was criticized by China, ended a court challenge against the detainees’ indefinite detention. In December 2006, lawyers for seven Uighur detainees filed a lawsuit, arguing that the process by which they were determined to be “enemy combatants” was flawed (Jurist, April 4)
The DoJ testimony comes as Chinese officials admitted that last month, as protests and repression in Tibet made world headlines, there were also a series of protests by Uighurs in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, just to Tibet’s north. One Uighur protest, which appears to have been quickly suppressed, took place in the town of Hotan on March 23. “A small number of elements tried to incite splittism, create disturbances in the market place and even trick the masses into an uprising,” a statement published on the Hotan government website said. (IHT, April 2)
Xinjiang leaders accused the group Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami of distributing and posting “reactionary” leaflets and calling for people to rise up in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi, as well as Hotan, Kashgar, and Kizilsu Kyrghiz Autonomous Prefecture. A report from the China News Agency said the group was responsible for plotting “illegal” demonstrations in Hotan that had to be put down by police.
A report from Radio Free Asia said the Hotan protesters were demanding authorities not ban headscarves in the predominantly Muslim region, and that they stop torturing Uighurs and release all political prisoners. They were also protesting the death of a popular Uighur trader who recently died in police custody, according to the report. (AP, April 5)