US defends detention of Uighurs at Gitmo; China defends detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang

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)

See our last posts on the detainment scandal, Gitmo, China and the Uighurs.

  1. ETIM charge
    The ETIM charge is so flawed as to be ridiculous. It is shameful that the U.S. government is grasping at Chinese straws to justify the continued detention of Uyghurs who were fleeing persecution in the PRC.

    1. Hong Kong website reports Xinjiang activists detained in Turkey
      Hong Kong website reports Xinjiang activists detained at torch relay in Turkey’

      Text of report by Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post website on 4 April

      [Report by Raymond Li And Associated Press in Istanbul: “Uygur Activists Detained During Torch Relay Ceremony in Turkey”; headline as provided by source]

      Turkish police detained at least six Uygurs yesterday during a protest against Beijing at the Olympic torch relay ceremony in Istanbul.

      The demonstrators were detained after they broke away from a larger group of protesters and shouted slogans just metres from Tugba Karademir, a Turkish figure skater and Olympic athlete who began the torch run past some of the city’s biggest landmarks.

      About 200 Uygurs converged ahead of the ceremony near Istanbul’s Blue Mosque and the Haghia Sofia, a former church.

      The Olympic flame is on a global tour before the Games in Beijing. The activists are protesting in response to reports of unrest by the Muslim Uygur minority in the Xinjiang region. Uygurs are ethnically related to Turks, and Turkey is home to a Uygur community.

      “Turkey, stand by your brothers,” read a banner at the Istanbul protest.

      Like Tibetans, many Uygur Muslims, who mostly live in Xinjiang, want independence from Beijing. In an unusual alliance, overseas-based Uygur rights groups have joined with Tibetans in demonstrating against Beijing.

      A Uygur exile group yesterday claimed mainland police had detained about 70 Uygurs in the Xinjiang city of Kashgar in what is believed to be part of security precautions before the torch passes through the volatile region in June. An official from the Kashgar prefecture security bureau denied claims of mass detentions.

      The region has been on high alert since authorities said last month they had foiled a plot by a suspected Uygur terrorist who forced a Beijing-bound flight from Urumqi to make an unscheduled landing in Gansu province.

      The authorities in Xinjiang also confirmed they had contained an attempt by Uygurs to launch an uprising at a crowded marketplace on March 23 in Hotan, a city bordering Tibet. They blamed extremists for the botched plot.

      The Hotan government website said up to 100,000 people were in the market when the attempt was made. But police refused to reveal details.

      India reportedly shortened the route of the torch relay through New Delhi amid fears of Tibetan-related unrest. The torch was to have been carried about 9km from the Red Fort to India Gate, but will now travel only 2km or 3km on Indian soil.

      Meanwhile, Wang Wei, executive vice-president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (Bocog), has reiterated Beijing’s pledge that China will broadcast the event to the world live and uncensored.

      Source: South China Morning Post website, Hong Kong, in English 4 Apr 08