The Eastern European nation of Slovakia agreed to take the last three ethnic Uighur prisoners who have been detained at Guantanamo since 2002, according to the Associated Press December 31. The Uighurs, ethnic Turkish Muslims from China, were innocent religious pilgrims caught up in the dragnet during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2002.
The Uighurs have become symbols of the injustice of the Bush/Obama-era detention policies. Not one of the 22 Uighurs detained at Guantanamo – the last three for more than a decade – was ever given a trial or charged with a crime. Moreover, they were subjected to abuse under the Bush administration, which refused to give them either status as civilian criminal suspects or prisoners of war.
The Uighurs – declared innocent and cleared for release by the U.S. government as early as 2004 – sat in legal limbo for a decade as the U.S. government sought a nation to which they could be released. U.S. officials refused to repatriate them to China because they feared the detainees would suffer torture there; some ethnic Uighurs have waged a low-grade guerrilla war for independence in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang.