The last three of 22 Uighurs detained in Guantanamo Bay since 2001 have been freed and sent to Slovakia, five years after a federal judge ordered their release and 10 years after Guantanamo's then-top officer Geoffrey Miller recommended they be freed because they were "not affiliated" with Al Qaeda or the Taliban.
The three men -- Yusef Abbas, Saidullah Khalik, and Hajiakbar Abdul Ghuper -- are Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority concentrated in western China. They were captured by the US military in Afghanistan. It's taken us this long to find another country to take them in; China was not an option for fears that they would be mistreated there. (For good reason: many Uighurs believe the Chinese government is violently oppressing them, while the Chinese government has accused the Uighurs of terrorism. There have been several deadly clashes between them in recent months, including yesterday.)
According to the BBC, Slovakia said in a statement that the men "have never been suspected nor accused of terrorism." The United States thanked Slovakia for its "humanitarian gesture" and called it a "significant milestone in our effort to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay."
Other Uighur detainees have gone to Albania, Bermuda, El Salvador, Palau and Switzerland. The final three apparently rejected offers from other countries before finally accepting Slovakia. China was not pleased with countries that took in the Uighurs; in Palau, for instance, construction on a Chinese-backed luxury hotel abruptly stopped when the country granted asylum to six Uighur detainees in 2009.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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