Guantánamo Uighurs Are Not Alone; US Community Welcomes Other Detainees Who Cannot Safely Be Repatriated

For Immediate Release

No More Guantánamos
Contact: 

Nancy Talanian, Director,
413-665-1150, ntalanian@nogitmos.org

Guantánamo Uighurs Are Not Alone; US Community Welcomes Other Detainees Who Cannot Safely Be Repatriated

WASHINGTON - On April 22, attorneys for five Chinese Uighurs who remain at
Guantánamo Bay prison will argue for their clients’ entry into the U.S
at a hearing scheduled before the US Court of Appeals in Washington,
DC. The men have been offered housing in the US and do not want to
settle in Palau, where they are welcome.  The US cannot return the men
to China, where they would face persecution.
 
But the Uighurs are not the only remaining detainees who have been
offered homes in the US.  On November 4, 2009, Amherst (MA) Town
Meeting overwhelmingly approved a resolution to welcome two cleared
Guantánamo detainees who cannot safely return to their home countries,
and a nearby community—Leverett, MA—will consider a similar resolution
April 24. A blanket ban Congress passed last fall bars anyone who has
ever been detained at Guantánamo Bay Prison from entering the US on a
blanket basis, except for prosecution.
 
The men whom the communities hope to welcome—Ahmed Belbacha, an
Algerian, and Ravil Mingazov, a Russian—face a risk of persecution,
torture, incarceration or death if returned to their home countries.
Unlike the Uighurs, however, no other country has offered Belbacha and
Mingazov a place to live.
 
For several years, Algerian detainee Ahmed Belbacha, whom the Bush
administration cleared for transfer more than three years ago, has
lived in fear of being sent back to Algeria, from where he fled Islamic
terrorists’ death threats in 1999. Last November, an Algerian court
tried Belbacha in absentia, and without legal representation, for
“belonging to a terror group” and sentenced him to 20 years
imprisonment. Belbacha’s lawyers characterize the sentence as
retaliation for Belbacha’s openness in describing the torture he would
receive if repatriated.
 
The lawyers' fears that Belbacha would soon be returned to Algeria were
heightened when Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to Algeria
earlier this month to sign a treaty to boost cooperation in fighting
crime and terrorism across borders. Last February, a US judge dissolved
an injunction preventing Belbacha’s repatriation, holding that the
administration alone had authority to relocate detainees whom it has
cleared for transfer. Belbacha’s lawyers have filed an emergency motion
in US District Court for the District of Columbia to block Belbacha’s
repatriation.
 
Ravil Mingazov fled Russia in 2001 to escape religious persecution and
was captured in Pakistan. He is the last Russian at Guantánamo Bay
Prison. Like Belbacha, Mingazov would rather stay in Guantánamo than be
repatriated. Human Rights Watch has documented the fates of the seven
other Russians at Guantánamo whom the US government repatriated in
2004. They were variously tortured, harassed, or imprisoned, and at
least one of the seven was killed.
 
US District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., heard Mingazov’s habeas corpus
petition beginning on April 12th; a ruling is expected in approximately
one month.

No More Guantánamos [http://www.nogitmos.org]
is a coalition of concerned U.S. residents, organizations, and
attorneys who are working together to ensure justice for the prisoners
at Guantánamo Bay, Bagram air base in Afghanistan, and other offshore
prison sites maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon around the world.
We work to ensure basic human rights for all prisoners, including the
right to be either charged for crimes and tried in accordance with
international law or released.
 
The
organization formed soon after President Obama’s executive order to
close Guantánamo Bay prison by January 22, 2009. Chapter locations
include the Pioneer Valley, Massachusetts; New York City;
Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Fort Collins, Colorado; and
Tallahassee, Florida.

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No More Guantánamos [http://www.nogitmos.org] is a coalition of concerned U.S. residents, organizations, and attorneys who are working together to ensure justice for the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Bagram air base in Afghanistan, and other offshore prison sites maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon around the world. We work to ensure basic human rights for all prisoners, including the right to be either charged for crimes and tried in accordance with international law or released.

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