- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal yesterday from two Chinese Muslims who were mistakenly captured as enemy combatants more than four years ago and are still being held at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The men’s plight has posed a dilemma for the Bush administration and courts. Previously, a federal judge said the detention of the ethnic Uighurs in Guantanamo Bay is unlawful, but that there was nothing federal courts could do.

Attorneys for the two contend they should be released, something the Bush administration opposes, unless they can go to a country other than the United States.

A year ago, the U.S. military decided that Abu Bakker Qassim and A’Del Abdu al-Hakim are not “enemy combatants” as first suspected after their 2001 arrests in Pakistan. They were captured and shipped to Guantanamo Bay along with hundreds of other suspected terrorists.

The U.S. government has been unable to find a country willing to accept the two men, along with other Uighurs. They cannot be returned to China because they likely would be tortured or killed.

It would have taken an unusual intervention of the Supreme Court to deal with the case now.

Attorneys for Qassim and al-Hakim filed a special appeal, asking the justices to step in even while the case is pending before an appeals court. Arguments at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit are next month.

Justices declined, without comment, to hear the case.

Bush administration Solicitor General Paul D. Clement told the justices that there were “substantial ongoing diplomatic efforts to transfer them to an appropriate country.”

Mr. Clement said that in the meantime, the men have had television, a stereo system, books and recreational opportunities, including soccer, volleyball and pingpong.

The detainees’ attorneys painted a different picture, saying that hunger strikes and suicide attempts at Guantanamo Bay are becoming more common and that the men are isolated.

About 500 foreigners are being held at Guantanamo Bay. Attorneys for more than 300 of the men filed a brief in yesterday’s case, saying that Qassim and al-Hakim “are far from the only innocent noncombatants languishing at Guantanamo.”

Qassim and al-Hakim were captured as they fled a Taliban military training camp, where they were learning techniques they planned to use against the Chinese government. They are Uighurs, Turkic-speaking Muslims who have a language and culture distinct from the rest of China.

In other action yesterday, the court:

• Refused to interfere in a California prosecutor’s efforts to obtain confidential counseling records kept by the Catholic Church on two priests under investigation for purportedly molesting children.

• Turned down an appeal from evangelist Jerry Falwell over a Web site with a name similar to his but with opposite views on homosexuals.

• Thwarted a white South African woman’s efforts to seek asylum in the United States on her claim that her family was persecuted by blacks who worked for her purportedly racist father-in-law.

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