On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals suspended the release of 17 Uighurs (Chinese Muslims) into the United States until the court has an opportunity to consider a government appeal. The men, who have been held at Guantanamo for over six years, have sparked a rancorous debate over the fate of men detained by the government in its war on terror.
Although the Uighurs were cleared for release in 2004, the Bush administration has been unable to find a country willing to accept them because of their classification by the U.S. government as terrorists. As a result, a federal judge ordered their release into the U.S. on October 7. President Bush, claiming that they were too dangerous to be let into the country, appealed the decision, and continued to push the State Department to find somewhere else that might take them.
Last week, the New York Times reported that the State Department’s efforts to find alternative placement for the men had been frustrated by the zealousness with which the administration has fought their release. By arguing that the 17 men pose too much of a threat to be released into the United States, the president has raised serious concerns within countries that might have considered taking them in.
The DC Circuit is scheduled to hear arguments in the case November 24.