U.S. District Court Blocks Release of 17 Uighur Prisoners from Guantanamo

[JURIST] The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Monday issued an order further delaying the release of 17 Uighur detainees from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay as it set an expedited schedule for hearing an appeal by the U.S Department of Justice (DOJ). A three-judge panel voted 2-1 to stay this month's order by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia requiring the federal government to release the Chinese Muslim detainees into the United States, finding that the DOJ had "satisfied the stringent standards required for a stay pending appeal." The panel did not elaborate on its reasoning. Circuit Judge Judith Rogers dissented from the order on the grounds that the court had "no basis" for granting a stay pending appeal. She wrote, in part:


The court's release order was based on findings that are either uncontested by the government or clearly supported by the record. The government had filed no returns to the writs filed by ten of the petitioners, and the returns in response to the remainder consisted only of the hearing records from Combatant Status Review Tribunals ("CSRTs"). … Although expressly offered the opportunity by the district court, the government presented no evidence that the petitioners pose a threat to the national security of the United States or the safety of the community or any person.
According to the expedited schedule, the DOJ's brief is due Friday, followed a week later by a brief on behalf of the Uighurs and by a DOJ reply brief on November 7. The panel set oral arguments for November 24. SCOTUSBlog has additional coverage.

The DC Circuit had issued a temporary stay of the release order earlier this month as it considered the merits of the DOJ's motion for a stay pending appeal. DOJ attorneys sought the temporary stay hours after U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled on October 7 that the Uighurs must be released, finding that the Constitution forbids their indefinite detention without cause. The Justice Department contends that Urbina's order violates the doctrine of separation of powers [JURIST report] as well as immigration statutes. Although the government has determined that the Uighurs are not unlawful enemy combatants, it has linked them with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [MIPT backgrounder], a militant group that calls for separation from China and has been a US-designated terrorist group since 2002. China has renewed its demand for the Uighurs to be repatriated, and on Tuesday, Chinese authorities called on other nations to arrest and extradite eight alleged ETIM members whom they suspect of plotting to attack the Olympic Games this past summer in Beijing. The New York Times reported last week that the Bush administration's most recent efforts to transfer the Uighur detainees to other countries have stalled because of an interagency dispute.

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