Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Do We Know Who the Uyghurs Are? Do We Even Know How to Pronounce "Weeger?"

Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) has released a floor statement that makes plain his strong disapproval of the Obama administration's reported plans to relocate the Uyghur detainees now held at Guantanamo Bay to the United States:

"Madam Speaker, it is my understanding that President Obama’s decision regarding the release into the United States of a number of Uyghur detainees held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 could be imminent. The New York Times, ABC News and others news outlets have reported that the president will soon release these terrorists into the United States, and yet this Congress has yet to be briefed on this decision. This is unacceptable.

"Let’s be clear: these terrorists would not be held in prisons but released into neighborhoods. They should not be released at all into the United States. Do Members realize who these people are? There have been published reports that the Uyghurs were members of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, a designated terrorist organization affiliated with Al Qaeda.

U.S. government policy towards the Uyghirs and the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is complicated. See this Congressional Research Service report, starting on page 8, for background.

For more on the ETIM, see the State Department's 2008 Country Reports on Terrorism and its index of Other Terrorist Groups. Here's how the report describes the ETIM and some actions it recently took against the Chinese government:

Despite a series of violent incidents and threats leading up to the Beijing Olympics, the Games were held successfully without terrorist incidents. Starting in June, representatives of a group calling itself the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) posted videos on the Internet taking credit for violent incidents in China and threatening to strike the Olympic Games. TIP is believed to be an another name for the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party (ETIP), also known as the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which was added by UN 1267 Committee to its Consolidated List of individuals/entities associated with Usama bin Laden, al-Qa‘ida, or the Taliban on September 11, 2002. Among the incidents TIP took credit for was a series of bus bombings in Kunming, Yunnan Province that killed two people in July. In March, the Chinese government claimed that flight attendants foiled a plot to detonate a homemade explosive on a flight from Urumqi, Xinjiang to Beijing by subduing a female passenger.

That sounds like terrorism to me, but note that the State Department does not include the ETIM on its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (it is merely on State's list of "other terrorist groups," and therefore doesn't receive the sanctions applied to FTOs). However, as noted above, the ETIM is listed by the United Nations as an entity with affiliations to Al-Qaeda.

The Obama administration is caught in a political dilemma. It wants to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility even if it means having to release and resettle in the United States some detainees who - like the Uyghurs - would be, ah, treated harshly if returned to their home countries. That plan requires the U.S. public and Congress to swallow the idea of having Islamic terrorists with Al-Qaeda affiliations living among us.

Of all the Guantanamo detainees, the Uyghurs are probably the group that would be the least offensive to the public and Congress since they seem to have committed no acts against U.S. interests. Possibly, the administration figures the Uyghurs would make a good opening wedge for its plan to eventually bring the whole GITMO gang to the U.S.

Representative Wolf obviously hopes that a public airing of the ETIM's record will make the Uyghur's resettlement in the U.S. politically impossible. I'm on his side.


Weeger said...

The Uyghurs are not terrorists. None has ever engaged in or planned any sort of terrorist activity, or been accused of terrorist activity.
This is undisputed.

None of the Uyghurs have undergone terrorist training. Many of them were accused by the Bush administration of having obtained “military
training” because they were shown how to break down and reassemble a single Kalashnikov rifle. Some, but not all, fired two or three bullets at a
target. To call that “military training” or “terrorist training” is absurd.

None were in a “terrorist training” camp. In the fall of 2001, thirteen of the seventeen Uighurs currently in Gitmo were in a Uighur expatriate village in the mountains of Afghanistan. It is undisputed that the “camp” had only Uighurs. There were no Taliban or al Qaeda in the “camp,” and the courts have found that there is no credible evidence that it was
actually associated with ETIM. Regardless, what happened there was not “training.”

Most of the Uighurs had never even heard of the ETIM until they were questioned about it by U.S. interrogators. Nor had they heard of al

A unanimous D.C. Circuit panel vacated Huzaifa Parhat’s enemy combatant classification. The panel, made up of two Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee, found that there was no
evidence that Parhat was a member of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (“ETIM”), no credible evidence that ETIM was associated with either al Qaeda or the Taliban, or that ETIM had ever fought the U.S.

Here are some key quotes from the case "Parhat v. Gates", 532 F.3d 834 (D.C. Cir. 2008):

"Parhat is an ethnic Uighur, who fled his home in the People's Republic of China in opposition to the policies of the Chinese government. It is undisputed that he is not a member of al Qaida or the Taliban, and that he has never participated in any hostile action against the United States or its allies." Parhat, 532 F.3d at 835-36.
"The Tribunal acknowledged . . . that 'no source document evidence was introduced to indicate ... that the Detainee had actually joined ETIM, or that he himself had personally committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition partners.'" Id. at 838 (quoting CSRT decision).

The Uyghur cases all have identical facts. In 2005, the military determined that five of them were not enemy combatants, while arbitrarily classifying the seventeen still at Gitmo as enemy combatants.
Government records show that the administration pressured military officials to classify all the Uighurs as enemy combatants. In the case of
two men still imprisoned at Gitmo, 2005 non-enemy combatant determinations were reversed under pressure from the Pentagon.

In 2006, the government released five of the Uighurs to Albania on the eve of an appellate court hearing regarding the legality of their continued
detention. They have been living peaceful productive lives ever since. One was just granted permanent asylum in Sweden.

TSB said...


Thanks for your comment. However, I must disagree with your statement that no Uyghur "has ever engaged in or planned any sort of terrorist activity, or been accused of terrorist activity." It is clear that some Uyghurs have both engaged in and been accused of terrorism. The U.S. State Department and the UN Security Council Committee list the ETIM as a terrorist group, and one with connections to Al-Qaeda.

I have no specific information regarding the 17 Ugyhur detainees in Gitmo and whether or not the training they received in Afghanistan was sufficient to bar them from admission into the U.S. I'm confident that a military tribunal at Gitmo will eventually resolve that question.

U.S. law clearly prohibits the admission of persons with terrorist training. If the 17 detainees had such training then they must be excluded. The fact that the ETIM doesn't target U.S. interests will be irrelevant.