U.S. Frees Last of Uighur Detainees From Guantánamo

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from The New York Times,

In what the Pentagon called a “significant milestone” in the effort to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the military announced Tuesday that the United States had transferred three Chinese detainees to Slovakia.

The three were the last of 22 ethnic Uighurs from China who were captured after the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and brought to Guantánamo.

Although the military decided that the three men were not at war with the United States and that they should be released — and a judge ordered them freed in 2008 — they remained stranded because of difficulties in finding a safe and agreeable place to send them.

“The United States is grateful to the government of Slovakia for this humanitarian gesture and its willingness to support U.S. efforts to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. “The United States coordinated with the government of Slovakia to ensure the transfer took place in accordance with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.”

With these transfers, a total of nine detainees have departed Guantánamo in December, and 11 since last summer, when President Obama revived his stagnant efforts to close the prison by appointing Cliff Sloan as a new State Department envoy for the effort to winnow down its population of low-level detainees. There are 155 prisoners remaining at Guantánamo. Of those, about half have long been approved for transfer if security conditions can be met in the receiving country, the bulk of whom are Yemenis.

In a statement, Mr. Sloan said, “We deeply appreciate Slovakia’s humanitarian assistance in accepting these three individuals from Guantánamo who were in need of resettlement,” and he portrayed the relationship between the United States and Slovakia as strong and close.

“All 22 Uighurs from Guantánamo now have been resettled to six different countries, and these three resettlements are an important step in implementing President Obama’s directive to close the Guantánamo detention facility,” he said.

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U.S. Frees Last of Uighur Detainees From Guantánamo