We reported earlier this month on some Muslim men from China who have been held in U.S. custody at Guantánamo Bay for three years. They’re being held there still, despite the fact that a U.S. Combatant Status Review Tribunal has concluded that they’re not enemy combatants and were seized by Pakistani forces — and then turned over to the United States — in error.
At a hearing in Washington yesterday, government lawyers said that the United States has moved the men to a less restrictive part of Guantánamo, but that it still isn’t setting them free. The U.S. won’t send them back to China for fear that they’d face religious persecution there, and it says it hasn’t been able to find anyone else to take them in. As the Washington Post reports, attorneys for the men argued that the United States must set them free now, and that putting them into a less restrictive area at Guantánamo simply amounts to “fluffing the pillows” when they’re still locked up behind a fence. The men could be released into the United States population as seekers of political asylum, attorneys said.
The government isn’t interested. Although U.S. District Judge James Robertson expressed some discomfort with the “big picture” — that is, that innocent men are being held for no reason — he said he wants to think further before making any decision. The government? Having exposed the men to more dangerous elements within Guantánamo, it wants to keep them locked up there until it can find some other country to take them. “We can continue to hold them … for as long as it takes,” the Justice Department’s Terry Henry told the court Thursday.