February 18th, 2009
11:50 AM ET
9 years ago

Court says Guantanamo prisoners cannot be released in U.S.

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that 17 detainees at the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba cannot be transferred or released into United States.

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that 17 detainees at the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba cannot be transferred or released into United States.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A federal appeals court panel ruled Wednesday that 17 native Chinese Muslims cannot be transferred and released into the United States from American military custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The three-judge panel concluded by a 2-1 vote there is no legal or constitutional authority for the prisoners to be immediately freed even though they are unlawfully detained, and no countries currently are willing to accept them.

The 17 men are Uighurs, an ethnic group from western China. They are accused of receiving weapons and military training in Afghanistan. Some of the prisoners have been cleared for release since 2003, but the United States will not send them back to their homeland because of concern they would be tortured by Chinese authorities.

The Chinese government has said no returned Uighurs would be tortured.

"We do not know whether all petitioners or any of them would qualify for entry or admission [to the United States] under immigration laws," wrote Judge Raymond Randolph. "We do know there is insufficient evidence to classify them as enemy combatants - enemies that is of the United States. But that hardly qualifies petitioners [the Uighurs] for admission. Nor does their detention at Guantanamo for many years entitle them to enter the United States."

U.S. District Judge Richard Urbina in October ordered the Uighurs released inside the United States since they are no longer considered "enemy combatants." He said further imprisonment "crossed the constitutional threshold into infinitum."

The Bush administration appealed, seeking a quick hearing to block any release, at least temporarily.

Lawyers for the prisoners now have the option of appealing directly to the Supreme Court, but the justices may not take up the matter for months.

Complicating matters in the years-long legal fight is that President Barack Obama has announced plans to close the military prison in Guantanamo.

In the ruling, Randolph noted, "The government has represented that it is continuing diplomatic attempts to find an appropriate country willing to admit
petitioners, and we have no reason to doubt it is doing so. Nor do we have the
power to require anything more."

Judge Judith Rogers agreed with the majority that it would be premature to release the prisoners into the United States before their immigration status
is resolved. But she dissent from the majority opinion, saying if it were later
determined their detention was illegal, the courts "would have the power to
order them conditionally released into the country."

She expressed concern the men have been behind bars for years, and said their detention "appears indefinite."

About 250 prisoners, many of them suspected terrorists, remain in the prison. Approximately two-thirds have appealed their continued imprisonment
and have complained the government is unfairly keeping them from finding out if any evidence exists that could clear them of wrongdoing.

Many fear arrest, physical abuse or persecution if they are sent to their homelands, according the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing the Uighurs in court. It said the men pose no terror threat and could be released into the United States and stay with a local Muslim community until their cases were resolved.

Among the lead Uighur plaintiffs is Hazaifa Parhat, accused of attending a terror training camp in Afghanistan at the time of the September 11, 2001, attacks. He denies the charge.

Urbina and Judge Richard Leon, who are handling appeals from Guantanamo prisoners, have grown frustrated in recent months with the continued
detention of some of the men. Leon ordered the release last week of five Algerians accused of being enemy combatants, and urged the government not to

U.S. military hearings known as combatant status review tribunals determine whether a prisoner can be designated an "enemy combatant," and prosecuted by the military. Some legal and military analysts have likened them to civilian grand jury proceedings.

The appeals court case is Kiyemba v. Obama (08-5424).

Filed under: Guantanamo Bay
soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. Rachel, PA

    Don't blame Barack, George Stupid 7th Worst President Ever put them there in the first place. Now the Dems have to clean up his mess. Typical stupid Rethugs, they make the mess and someone else has to clean it up, while they're off to the side belly aching, whining, moaning and groaning. Shut your freakin' faces morons. You picked the 7th worst president ever. How smart are you?

    February 18, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  2. Carol

    Where are all the lefty protesters at? Funny they usually are the first ones screaming about "terrorist rights". Their silence is deafining.

    February 18, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  3. Tariq

    If there is no reason to release me from prison, then by deduction i am LAWFULLY detained.........which is it?? Unlawfully detained or no authority to be freed??

    By the way, no one is buying that BS about protecting them from chinese governement torture by detaining them indefinitely...As if the idiots in Guantanamo are the model Geneva convention loyalists.

    February 18, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  4. EBC

    That's okay, let's just send these prisoners to the states of John McCain, John Boehner, Eric Canter and Lindsey Graham and SEE how they like those apples being dished out compliments of their former President and Vice President! I'm sure Cheney would love to house them in his NEW mansion down in Virginia!!

    Tha's okay, because what Bush and Cheney DISHED out is truly going to COME BACK AROUND!!

    This is NOT the end for President Obama, it's just the beginning, He's going to review the court ruling and then go from there.

    The END was with the Bush/Cheney Administration back stabbing this country every chance they got!!

    February 18, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  5. Jerry Wagner

    Why not send them all to the BIG RANCH in Crawford, Texas? There's lots of brush to be cleared. Their host will welcome them with open arms. They deserve each other.

    February 18, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  6. Noah

    Raagos- Learn to speak and write in English sentences and we will take you seriously. The people at Gitmo are the lowest of the low. They are Terrorist scum who seek the destruction of our way of life.

    February 18, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  7. Jon in CA

    Have no fear, people!! Obama can heal the broken souls of these poor terrorists... Right Michelle??

    (eyes rolling)

    Let them loose in Obama's Chicago neighborhood. Obama's close friends and neighbors (Farakhan, Ayers, Dorne, Wright, Pfleger, etc) will receive the terrorists with open arms!

    February 18, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  8. Kurt C.

    Man, that Obama is looking like a genius on closing Guantanamo.

    February 18, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  9. Ray Ray

    Send them back to China!

    They're not US citizens and can not legally live here... oh wait... we no longer care about immigration laws as a country.

    Send them to Berkley, CA!!

    February 18, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  10. Dace Tucson Z

    We are just at the tip of the ice berg of the crimes that bush committed undermining our American values and standing as a leader of democracy. In addition to killing our soldiers needlessly he has now spit in the faces of all those who have fought and died for our great country. There is no end to the evil he and cheney/necons have done – I hope they all rot in prison soon.

    February 18, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  11. Hillary

    So what else is new ? These poor people are innocent and being held without charge indefinitely ! shame, shame on this country.

    February 18, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  12. markens from NY

    so what are we going to do with them?. execute them?or keep them without justice?. some of them are suspected terrorists but they have no charges against them. Bush should be investigated.

    February 18, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  13. mika

    send them to texas where bush is. and cheney and rice's home. they brought them here.

    February 18, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  14. Michigan Millionaire

    Surely there's room for them a Democratic congressman's house in the District of Columbia. That's not part of the United States, is it?

    February 18, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  15. hunter

    So this is Obama's fault? How about the clowns that stuck them in there and left no way t get rid of them when they couldn't convict them of anything. Sounds like Bush (Chaney) created a catch-22 that PO has to deal with. How is that his fault?

    The question is why did we bother to arrest them anyway? You could fill every prison in the world with people if we just decide to grab people arbitrarily and hold onto them.

    February 18, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  16. mark

    Send them to China. I highly doubt they'll be missed as nobody really knew they existed.

    February 18, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  17. Dems be dopes


    February 18, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  18. D-MI


    Just so you know, some of us think of your children as terrorists. On buses, in supermarkets, restaurants, movie theaters... What exactly are THEY contributing to society? Huh? Do THEY pay taxes? Drug takin' deadbeats is what they are, spongin' of the workin' man... SEND 'EM TO CHINA!

    Yours truly,
    Lib (progressive, actually)

    February 18, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  19. NY republican

    They are Chinese nationals, China said they would take them. Even though I don't believe much the Chinese govt. saysm in this "new era" we should take them at their word and see what happens. Personally, I think sending them home, in this case, would do a lot in seeing that they do not do terror in the future. Their govt. would not be the least bit worried about their own citizens' civil rights if they did.

    February 18, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  20. Troy

    This is why Guantanamo should be closed, but why Obama is being smart and giving it a year. There are so many people that have awkward legal status, these issues have to resolved. We cannot, however, hold people indefinitely. Prosecute the guilty to the fullest extent possible, and free those that deserve freedom. It's a simple application of our most basic fundamentals of justice in America.

    February 18, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  21. Ken

    Why don't we just release them all back to their own country? I am tired of the American people's taxpayer dollars going to support everyone else except the American people.

    When in the H*#+ are elected officials going to start focusing on helping the American people and not everyone else?

    February 18, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |


    February 18, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  23. Gloria, El Paso ,TX

    What is wrong with all you people? Obama DID NOT create the Guantanamo Bay situation or the ECONOMIC RECESSION. He hasn't even been in office for 30 days and he is been blamed for everything wrong under the sun and the moon. THE BLAME IS THE GEORGE BUSHS'. They are the crooks who screwed up our country and along the way made billions of dollars not only for themselves but for the world crooks they deal with to this day. Sent these people back to their own country and let their government deal with as they see fit. We have enough problems of our own than having to take care of these terrorists who will turn around and screw us over.

    to Patriot Guy- you should go to China with them. I don't like the comments you make.

    February 18, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  24. barack obama is still just B.O.

    At least our judicial system has more common sense than our president.
    I guess that is one positive since 1/20/09.

    Surprised we didn't have something in the spending initiative, sorry stimulus, to give them money and buy them a home and car.

    February 18, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  25. MrReality

    Let me get this straight...these Chinese prisoners were brought to Guantanamo but never charged with any crimes (surprise!!) and othe Bush government decided they weren't our enemies way back in 2003 (imagine that!!) but they have no legal standing to enter the U.S. (even though it's our government that imprisoned them and is - by their own admission - imprisoning them illegally) and we're afraid to send them back to China because they Chinese might torture them (I may very well wet myself from laughing about that last statement!). PLEASE...give me a break. Either ship them off to their native country (China) or ask all of the ninny right-wingers who are getting just a tad off-topic with their Obama-bashing here (get over it, you LOST the election convincingly) to personally sponsor or adopt them. Sheesh!

    February 18, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
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