Witness Against Torture Applauds Decision on Guantánamo Detainees

For Immediate Release

Witness Against Torture Applauds Decision on Guantánamo Detainees

WASHINGTON - In
a courtroom packed with anti-torture activists and members of the
Uigher community, U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina struck a
landmark blow against the Bush administration and its policy of
indefinite detention at Guantánamo in Washington, DC today.

The
case involved seventeen Uighers, ethnic Chinese Muslim detainees held
at Guantánamo despite having been deemed unthreatening and cleared for
released. The United States has continued to hold them, arguing they
would face persecution if repatriated to China. Judge Urbina called
their continued detention "illegal," and ruled that the government has
to "release them here" in the United States.

When
the government argued that bringing the men to the United States might
result in their apprehension by the Department of Homeland Security,
Judge Urbina grew angry and frustrated, saying "these Uighers will not
be touched until I see them in this court... The petitioners must be
brought to me on Friday [October 10th] and nothing will
happen to these people before then." The government is expected to
appeal the ruling, postponing what would be the first time in nearly
seven years that prisoners at Guantánamo would appear before a U.S.
court of law. 

The
Uighers, who are members of a repressed minority within China, have
been held without judicial oversight for nearly seven years. Fleeing a
Chinese crackdown, they were arrested by security personnel in Pakistan
soon after September 11, 2001 and were transferred to U.S. military
custody in exchange for bounties of $5,000 a piece. After being
subjected to torture in Pakistan, the men have languished in legal
limbo at Guantánamo. A smaller group of Uighers was released from
Guantánamo in 2006 and granted entry into Albania.

Members
of Witness Against Torture, a grassroots movement to shut down
Guantánamo, were present at the hearing and heartened by Urbina's
ruling. "Once again the courts are ruling in favor of justice," said
Matthew W. Daloisio, of New York City, one of the group's organizers.
"Judge Urbina is opening the doors of the United States to these
innocent victims of the White House's war on terror."

"This
is a good step," comments Helen Schietinger, a Washington, DC resident
and another organizer with Witness Against Torture. "And in the context
of a presidential race in which both major candidates have called for
the closure of Guantánamo," she continues, "this ruling could be the
beginning of freedom for many of the more than 200 men who remain
imprisoned at the U.S. Naval Base there: but we have to make it happen.
In the coming weeks and months, we have a historic opportunity to
reverse the disastrous policies of the last seven years."

Witness
Against Torture has launched a campaign to close the U.S. detention
facilities at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and end torture by the United States
within the first 100 days of the new President's administration. Joined
by the Center for Constitutional Rights, United for Peace and Justice,
the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International,
War Resisters League, the School of the Americas Watch and other
groups, Witness Against Torture will begin a nine-day fast on January
11, 2009, which marks seven years since the opening of the prison at
Guantánamo.

The campaign to Shut Down Guantánamo will begin formally on January 20, the inauguration of the next President.  The
campaign brings together a coalition of groups and individuals who will
take part in demonstrations, educate Congress and the public, and
engage in nonviolent direct action.  Witness Against
Torture will maintain a physical presence at the White House and
organize activities - from film screenings to lectures and community
meetings - in Washington, D.C., and across the country.

Witness Against Torture members who were in Judge Urbina's courtroom today are available for comment:

Matthew D. Daloisio, 201-264-4424, daloisio@earthlink.net

Helen Schietinger, 202-344-5762, h.schietinger@verizon.net

 

To learn more about the Campaign, visit http://www.witnesstorture.org/100days

 

 

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