Swiss Take Two More Guantanamo Detainees

Switzerland has agreed to take two Uighur brothers from Guantanamo.

The Swiss said Wednesday that they will resettle the brothers, Arkin Mahmud and Bahtiyar Mahnut, probably within a month. They are among seven Chinese Muslims, or Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gurs), who remain at Guantanamo.

Just in time to avoid another Supreme Court ruling?

The high court has scheduled argument for March 23 to consider whether a federal judge can order their release into the United States over the objection of Congress and the administration when no other nation will take them. The government acknowledges they pose no terror threat, and they can't return to China for fear of persecution or worse.

Maybe not. Five Uighurs in the lawsuit will remain at Gitmo after the brothers' transfer. The case is Kiyemba v. Obama. The Uighurs' opening brief is here. [More...]

The issue before the Supreme Court:

Whether a federal court exercising its habeas jurisdiction, as confirmed by Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S.__, 128 S. Ct. 2229 (2008), has no power to order the release of prisoners held by the Executive for seven years in the Guantánamo prison, where the Executive detention is indefinite and without authorization in law, and release in the continental United States is the only possible effective remedy.

After the brothers go to Switzerland, five Uighurs will remain at Gitmo. It's not clear why as it appears all were cleared for release. By some accounts, they were offered release to Paulau but refused. By others, the U.S. is still working to get them repatriated before the March 23 Supreme Court hearing.

The brief includes some details of post-release life of four Uighurs in Bermuda:

The Bermuda four live peacefully near Hamilton, 14 working as groundskeepers at the Port Royal Golf Club (a favorite of American tourists where the Professional Golf Association recently held a tournament). Two joined a community soccer club; all were guests of the U.S. Consul at a Fourth-of-July beach party; and all have met with Premier and Mrs. Ewart Brown.

In addition to the four released to Bermuda, five have been sent to Albania and six to Paulau. Paulau has only accepted them temporarily, and it's possible Australia may take them permanently. One who went to Albania has since transferred to Sweden. All have been living peaceful and productive lives since they left Guantanamo.

The Uighurs are not terrorists. They are members of a Muslim minority "from the “other Tibet,” the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of far-western China, which has long been repressed by the communist regime." They fled to Afghanistan. When the U.S. bombing campaign began in 2001, they fled to Pakistan, where most were kidnapped by villagers and sold for a bounty offered by the U.S.

They were taken the Kandahar Air Base, From there, the U.S. transferred them to Gitmo. The U.S. has long agreed they are not criminals or terrorists. But since Congress would not let them be released to live in the U.S, and they can't be sent back to China because because they likely would face torture or death, the U.S. has continued to hold them while it seeks third countries to take them. More than 100 countries have been approached. They have been held for 8 years.

Everyone agrees they are not members of al Qaida or the Taliban, and have never participated in any hostile acts towards the U.S.

Lawyers for the brothers going to Switzerland (and the other 15 Uighurs in the original lawsuit) say they will be living in living free in the Swiss Canton (state) of Jura.

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  • Display: Sort:
    How about a prisoner exchange (none / 0) (#1)
    by Peter G on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 11:55:07 AM EST
    with the Swiss, for Polanski?

    Shame on Congress... (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 01:19:52 PM EST
    for all they've been through, a ticket to the USofA should at least be offered...though if I was them I might not want it.  

    According to wiki (none / 0) (#3)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Feb 04, 2010 at 02:02:10 PM EST
    One of the brothers, Bahtiyar Mahnut:
    Allegedly served with the Taliban near Mazari Sharif.[104]

    And the other brother, Arkin Mahmud:
    is not accused of attending a training camp, or of engaging in hostilities, or of any association with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or any group associated with terrorism.

    Mahmud traveled to Afghanistan to seek out his brother, who, he said he was surprised to learn, was attending a training camp.