The White House is relieved a home was finally found for 17 Muslim Uighurs from China who were held without justification at Guantanamo Bay, but their leading champion in Congress, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), is still raising serious allegations about their mistreatment in the U.S. military prison in Cuba.
Members of an ethnic group from central Asia and the Xinjiang province in western China, 22 Uighurs were picked up after Sept. 11, 2001, in Afghanistan, where they said they had fled to in protest of Chinese taxes. China labeled them terrorists, but it was determined during the Bush administration that the Uighurs pose no security threat to the U.S.
Amid fears the Uighurs would be tortured by the Chinese if returned home, the Bush White House released six to Albania in 2006. Albania then received a harsh diplomatic rebuke from China, as have other countries that initially entered talks to take the Uighurs, who have been rotting at Guantanamo while the mess gets sorted out.
Complicating matters has been former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who shares the Red Chinese goverment view that the Uighurs are terrorists, and Rohrabacher's Republican Party, which had successfully prevented the remaining 17 detainees from simply being released somewhere in America as part of their efforts to thwart President Barack Obama's quest to permanently close Guantanamo, which they (and Rohrabacher) oppose.
But Rohrabacher says Gingrich and his GOP allies are wrong about the Uighurs being terrorists, posing a threat and belonging behind bars. The matter was seemingly settled when the tiny South Pacific island nation of Palau agreed last week to take 13 of the 17 Uighurs. Actually, Palau would have taken all of them, but four are already bound for Bermuda. As Palau awaits the arrival of the Uighurs, Rohrabacher is calling for an investigation into their treatment while at Guantanamo.
(D-Mass.), the Uighurs' leading Democratic champion in the House,
is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Oversight Subcommittee, whose ranking Republican member is Rohrabacher. Both have received reports that Chinese government agents were allowed into Guantanamo to torture and harshly interrogate Uighur prisoners. The allegation is raised in the following transcript ofU.S. State Department
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's June 10 briefing to reporters:
QUESTION: But, Ian, at the hearing this morning, one of the-I believe it was Rohrabacher said that an FBI report said that the U.S. had allowed Chinese agents into Guantanamo to question and torture those Uighurs. Is that correct?
MR. KELLY: Those are serious allegations. I haven't seen the exact comments. I do know that in Guantanamo, there had been monitored discussions by officials from other governments. But I think you know the next thing I'm going to say is that these are really matters for the Pentagon to address and not for me.
Delahunt and Rohrabacher conclude a June 11 letter they sent to Attorney General Eric Holder by mentioning their panel will investigate the treatment of Uighurs at Guantanamo. At least our local congressman cares about the treatment of some prisoners held there.