WASHINGTON — The Obama administration told Congress it plans to transfer eight Chinese Muslims detained at Guantanamo to the Pacific island nation of Palau, according to a US document that said six had already accepted.
The US State Department notified Congress on September 16 that "the US government intends to transfer eight of the petitioners to Palau, with the transfer to occur no earlier than October 1," Solicitor General Elena Kagan wrote to the Supreme Court.
"The US government has every reason to believe that at least six of the petitioners shortly will be resettled in Palau, although it is impossible to be certain until they actually board the plane," she added in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.
Discussions with the two petitioners who have not yet accepted the deal were "ongoing," Kagan said, adding that the State Department "hopes that all eight of these individuals will agree to be resettled in Palau."
The detainees are among 13 Uighurs -- a minority Muslim and Turkic-speaking group from China's northwest -- who still linger at Guantanamo Bay, the US military prison camp where 226 "war on terror" prisoners remain.
The United States cleared them of any wrongdoing four years ago, but they have remained in legal limbo, with Washington unwilling to send them back to China, despite Beijing's demands.
The men were among 22 Uighurs living in a camp in Afghanistan during the US-led invasion of the country in October 2001 that toppled the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
They said they had fled to Afghanistan to escape persecution in their vast home region of Xinjiang.
Twelve of them have filed a petition before the US Supreme Court to be brought to US soil.
China wants the detainees returned home to be tried, saying they belong to the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement. US officials have refused to extradite the Uighurs because of fears they could face torture.
US President Barack Obama has vowed to shutter the controversial detention center by January but he has faced serious domestic opposition to his plans, especially to moving some of the detainees to US soil for trial or continued detention.
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