US court dismisses Uighurs' appeal

The US supreme court has refused to rule on whether judges have the power to order the government to release Guantanamo prisoners to live in the US, when no other country will take them.

The court said on Monday that it would not decide on an appeal by seven Chinese Uighurs held for years at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, because they had received at least one offer to go to another country.

Without ruling on the issues at the heart of the appeal, the country's highest court sent the case back to an appeals court to decide what further proceedings are now "necessary and appropriate for the full and prompt disposition of the case in light of the new developments".

The court's order on Monday was not a complete setback for the Uighurs, however, because the justices also threw out the appeals court's earlier ruling against them.

The appeals court had previously ruled that judges did not have the authority to release the Guantanamo detainees to live inside the United States.

Re-examine case

The supreme court justices said on Monday that the lower court should re-examine the case.

Last year, the Obama administration said it was considering freeing the Uighurs to live in the US, but a political firestorm erupted, with many members of congress strongly opposing such a transfer.

The seven detainees who made the appeal are the only Uighurs who remain at Guantanamo, and they have all been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Switzerland recently said it would take two of the Uighurs while the Pacific island nation of Palau and another, unidentified, nation have offered to take the other five.

The Uighurs are a Turkic Muslim ethnic minority from China's far western Xinjiang region.

They are linguistically and culturally distinct from China's dominant Han ethnic group, and many Uighurs seek greater autonomy for the region and some want independence.

China has consistently cracked down on what it calls violent separatist activities in the region.

China wants the Uighurs sent home, but the detainees and the US government fear for how they will be treated if they are sent back.

United States | Politics | 2010-03-02 |