- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Some Chinese Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay could be released in the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday.

During an interview with reporters, Holder was asked whether members of a group of Uighurs at the U.S. military detention facility in Cuba could be released on American soil.

“I don’t know. We’re trying to come up with places for them,” Holder said.

He added later: “The possibility exists.”

The United States has cleared 17 of the Uighurs for release from Guantanamo, but insists it will not hand them over to China because the Uighurs fear they will be tortured.

Holder’s Justice Department is leading the Obama administration’s effort to close the Guantanamo Bay detention site for terrorist suspects within a year.

A federal judge in October ordered that the 17 men be allowed to enter the U.S. over the objections of the Bush administration. Last month a federal appeals court overruled that decision, saying the 17 detainees must stay at the prison camp in Cuba.

In its ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the judge had gone too far in ordering the U.S. entry of the 17 men.

The three-judge panel suggested the detainees might be able to seek entry by applying to the Homeland Security Department, which administers U.S. immigration laws. But the court bluntly concluded that the detainees otherwise had no constitutional right to immediate freedom after being held in custody at Guantanamo without charges for nearly seven years.

Uighurs are from Xinjiang, an isolated region that borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and six Central Asian nations. They say they have been repressed by the Chinese government. China long has said that insurgents are leading an Islamic separatist movement in Xinjiang. The Uighur detainees were captured in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2001.

Albania accepted five Uighur detainees in 2006 but since has balked at taking others, partly for fear of diplomatic repercussions from China.

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