These men have been held for 7 years without charge or trial, simply for being of the wrong faith, according to the US government.
Had they not been Muslims, they would not have been illegally imprisoned and likely tortured.
Judge orders release of Uighurs into U.S.
Last Updated: Tuesday, October 7, 2008 | 1:45 PM ET
In a landmark decision, a U.S. federal judge has ordered that a group of Chinese Muslims being held at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, be released into the United States.
The Bush administration had argued the judge did not have the authority to release the 17 Uighur detainees into the United States but that they also could not be returned to China where they are still considered terrorists and may be tortured.
The men, who are no longer considered enemy combatants by the U.S. administration, have been held at the naval prison for almost seven years. They were taken into custody in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2001.
In his decision, U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina said it would be wrong for the Bush administration to continue holding the detainees who have been cleared for release since 2004.
Efforts to find a home for the detainees outside the United States have been complicated by fears in many countries of diplomatic reprisals by the Chinese government, which has demanded the men be repatriated to China.
In 2006, Albania gave refuge to five Uighurs from Guantanamo amid Chinese protests.
Bush administration lawyers argued Tuesday that Urbina did not have the authority to order the Uighurs released into the United States, where a Chinese Muslim association in Virginia has agreed to help the men find work and housing.
But Urbina called the ongoing detention unlawful and said the U.S. constitution prohibits indefinite imprisonment without charges.
Lawyers for the detainees said Urbina's ruling marks the first time a federal court has ordered the release of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay into the United States.
It is unclear when the men will be released into the United States. Urbina has ordered the men be brought to the court for a hearing on Friday.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Chinese government continued to demand that the Uighurs, who are from an ethnic minority group in Xinjiang, be placed in Chinese custody.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the Uighurs are suspected of being members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which the United States lists as a terrorist organization.
"China has urged the U.S. to repatriate these Chinese terrorist suspects to China on many occasions," Gang said. "We hope the U.S. will take our position seriously and repatriate these persons to China sooner rather than later."
China has argued insurgent Uighurs are leading an Islamic separatist movement in Xinjiang.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington has not yet commented on Urbina's order that the men be released onto American soil.
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