Munich says it will accept Guantanamo Uighurs

6th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

The held Uighurs have been cleared of terrorist activity but Washington has declined to repatriate them to China for fear they would be persecuted or tortured.

Berlin -- The German city of Munich, home to the biggest community of ethnic Uighurs outside China, has offered to host the 17 members of the Chinese minority that are being held at Guantanamo Bay.

A city hall official on Friday confirmed a report in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily that the municipal council had supported a motion to this effect put forward by the Green party on Thursday.

However, the offer will need approval from the cross-party government of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The government is currently divided on the issue of taking inmates from Guantanamo after Washington closes the Cuban prison for terror suspects.

Social Democrat Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is in favor of taking in some freed prisoners while Christian Democrat Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaueble is against.

The case of the Uighurs, who were arrested in the wake of the US invasion of Afghanistan and were held at Guantanamo for the past seven years, is exceptional.

All have been cleared of terrorist activity but Washington has declined to repatriate them to China for fear they would be persecuted or tortured.

Beijing has demanded the return of the 17 prisoners. Beijing says the prisoners were part of a United Nations-listed terror group that was seeking an independent homeland in the Uighur-populated Xinjiang region.

Lawyers for three of the people have filed applications for refugee status in Canada, prompting a warning from Beijing on Thursday.

"We have expressed our position many times about those Chinese terrorists detained in Guantanamo,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing. “We are opposed to any country accepting those people. We hope the parties concerned can conveniently resolve this issue according to the international laws and regulations."

Uighurs, who are mostly Muslim, form the largest ethnic group in northwest China's Xinjiang region that borders Central Asia. Some hope for independence from China.

AFP/Expatica

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