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Is it possible to exit Guantanamo gracefully?

February 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Following President Obama’s announced plans to shut down Guantanamo within a year, the ability, or lack thereof, of Saudi Arabia and Yemen to successfully reform terrorists (two former detainees at Guantanamo have appeared in a recent video released by Al Qaeda) has been seriously questioned. While this issue has received a good deal of press coverage, the plight of the many prisoners who have already been declared innocent also stands to present a substantial challenge to the new administration.

Joshua Kurlantzick, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace addressed this issue in a lengthy article in Abu Dhabi’s The National, focusing on the specific case of 22 Uighar detainees. Uighars make up a substantial Muslim Turkic population in western China, where they regularly suffer abuse at the hands of the Chinese government out of fear of a possible separatist movement. The Uighars, however, are among some of the most pro-American Muslims in the world. These 22 prisoners were picked up in Afghanistan and shipped to Guantanamo, where, despite having been proven innocent by the Pentagon in 2005, they remain locked up:

They remained there because, in those intervening years, Washington realised the real problem with the Uighurs, one that will confront Barack Obama as he tries to figure out how to close Guantanamo Bay: What do you do with men you’ve branded as terrorists, once you realised they’re not?

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