US & Canada

Top US court declines plea by Uighurs at Guantanamo Bay

The Supreme Court building in Washington DC
Image caption The detainees, who face no charges, want the chance to be resettled in the US

The US Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal by the five remaining Chinese Muslims being held at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay.

The detainees wanted the court to consider whether a US judge could order them released on to American soil.

The Chinese Muslims had previously declined an offer to be resettled in the small Pacific nation of Palau.

The five men were among a group of Uighurs captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and have all been cleared of charges.

It is unclear why the detainees, who have been held at the US naval base in Cuba for nearly nine years, have refused to go to Palau or to a second unidentified nation, where the White House had previously said it was willing to take them.

Justice Stephen Breyer said he agreed with the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case because of the countries' offers and "the government's uncontested commitment to continue to work to resettle" the five Uighurs.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor joined Mr Breyer's opinion.

The Supreme Court's decision allows a federal appeals court ruling, which said the Uighurs did not have the right to resettle in the US, to stand.

Mistreatment risk

The five detainees were originally accused of receiving weapons and military training in Afghanistan.

Six other Uighurs released from the prison have been sent to Palau, while 11 others have gone to Bermuda, Albania and Switzerland.

The US has repeatedly said the Uighurs are not enemy combatants or a national security threat.

China wants them to be returned there, but the US says it cannot repatriate them due to the risk of mistreatment.

The Uighurs are a mainly Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority based in western China's Xinjiang region.

Beijing has frequently cracked down on Uighur dissidents, whom it accuses of seeking an independent homeland.

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