Swiss to accept Uighur detainees from Guantanamo

Wed Feb 3, 2010 9:25pm IST

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ZURICH- Switzerland said on Wednesday it would accept two Uighur detainees from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay on humanitarian grounds, disregarding a parliamentary committee's recommendation not to take them.

The pair, who are Chinese nationals, will be housed in canton of Jura. An Uzbek from the U.S. prison already lives in the canton of Geneva.

"Based on our studies of their files, they don't constitute a security risk," Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said.

She indicated Switzerland was not planning to take in further detainees: "We have closed this dossier today."

Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking Muslim people, many of whom chafe at Chinese controls on their religion and culture.

Beijing has demanded Uighurs held at Guantanamo be returned to China but the U.S. government has declined to comply, saying they would face persecution at the hands of the Chinese.

Widmer-Schlumpf said Switzerland wanted to maintain good relations with the United States and China and such political considerations were not at the core of the decision.

"In the end, the final factor was not economic and diplomatic relations. We decided to base our decision on Switzerland's humanitarian tradition," she said.

The two Uighurs underwent fingerprinting and psychological tests to ensure they constituted no threat, she said. In theory, they could seek legal redress against the United States for their detention but could not sue Switzerland, she said.

In January, a panel of parliament's lower house recommended against accepting the pair, citing security fears after the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Dec. 25.

When U.S. President Barack Obama took office last year he ordered a review of detainees in Guantanamo to determine which could be freed and which would be referred for prosecution in U.S. criminal or military courts.

(Editing by Andrew Dobbie)

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