Detainee Transfer Announced
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby provided the following:
“The Department of Defense is announcing today the transfer of Yusef Abbas, Saidullah Khalik, and Hajiakbar Abdul Ghuper from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the Government of Slovakia.
“These three are the last ethnic Uighur Chinese nationals to be transferred. They were subject to release from Guantanamo as a result of a court order issued on Oct. 7, 2008, by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and are voluntarily resettling in Slovakia.
“As directed by the president's Jan. 22, 2009, executive order, the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of these cases. As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, these individuals were designated for transfer by unanimous consent among all six agencies on the task force.
“Today, 155 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.” DoD News Release
Authorities eventually determined that the 22 Uighurs in its custody had no involvement in terrorism, but the U.S. struggled to resettle them. China requested their return, but they couldn't be sent there because of fears they would face persecution and torture. Many countries refused to accept them out of reluctance to anger the Chinese government. Congress blocked a U.S. judge's order to release them inside the United States.
Eventually, the U.S. relocated Uighurs to Bermuda, Palau, Switzerland and elsewhere but could not find countries that would take the final three and would also be acceptable to the men even after a decade of captivity at Guantanamo.
Slovakia had previously accepted three Guantanamo prisoners, from Egypt, Tunisia and Azerbaijan, in 2009. The Interior Ministry portrayed this latest transfer as simply an extension of the previous agreement. "Like in the case of the first transport, they are persons who have been neither suspected nor accused of the crime of terrorism," the ministry said in a statement broadcast on Slovak RTVS television.
With 19 other Uighur men, Abbas, Abdulghuper and Kalik were mistakenly captured in eastern Afghanistan, not far from a crucial 2001 battle at Tora Bora. An ethnic Turkic minority in China, the Uighur detainees said they had come to Afghanistan to escape persecution. They were given to the US for detention at a time when US forces were heavily reliant on Afghan proxies who had their own agendas and who accepted bounties for captives.
During the early days of their detention, the US interrogated the Uighur men brutally. In September 2002, Chinese officials were allowed to visit Guantánamo. According to 2009 testimony to a US House subcommittee, the Uighur detainees were subject to sleep deprivation, frigid temperatures and isolation. One detainee, Ablikim Turahun, wrote to a House foreign affairs subcommittee that the US troops supervising his detention followed instructions from the Chinese officials to take his picture without his consent.
The Uighur detainees came to live in a Guantánamo facility separate from the rest of the detention population. While their treatment was less severe, they were not free men. The Guardian