U.S. must release Chinese Gitmo prisoners

The U.S. Supreme court this week said it will not intervene in the case of two Chinese Muslims held captive at Guantanamo Bay — two men who have had their charges dropped yet still remain imprisoned. This case is another example why the U.S. government is doing a terrible job fighting the war on terror.

According to The Miami Herald, the two men are Abu Bakker Qassim and A’del Abdu Al-Hakim.

U.S. military review panels declared both men are not “enemy combatants” – a requirement all Guantanamo prisoners must have in order to be detained. The United States’ interrogation and handling of enemy combatants is a hot international law issue today. According to CNN.com, the Bush Administration defines enemy combatants as “captives who had trained, plotted or fought against the United States or its allies, or were associated with people suspected of doing those things.”

Qassim and Hakim’s attorney tried to get the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene after a federal judge declared holding the two men at Guantanamo was unlawful. However, the State Department is having trouble figuring out which country to send them back to.

Both men are Uighurs, an ethnic minority group in China who are facing alleged religious oppression from the Chinese government. Many Uighurs are pushing for an autonomous homeland. Chinese officials have labeled these separatist fighters as terrorists. Traditionally, our country’s foreign policy dictates the United States does not repatriate prisoners who might face torture in their native countries. No country yet has accepted the two prisoners.

Now, Qassim and Hakim are sitting inside a Guantanamo prison without any charges against them whatsoever. According to the same Herald article, Bush lawyers have argued because their charges have been dropped, both men “have been segregated from the general population in a small compound surrounded by chain-link fencing where they can kick a soccer ball around a tiny field and watch videos.”

Apparently it’s OK to hold innocent foreigners at Guantanamo Bay as long as they can watch Aladdin and kick a ball around in their prison cells.

Critics of the Bush Administration have already hammered our government for its poor handling of the war on terror, and this case just adds fuel to the fire. Every minute we hold these two captives or any other innocent ones at Guantanamo hurts our country’s image abroad. While we understand the complexity and difficulty of the war on terror, holding innocent prisoners is not justifiable.

The United States needs to release Qassim and Hakim quickly. If no country will take them, then allow them to seek asylum in the United States. In our opinion, the least this country can do for these two men is grant them asylum after what they’ve gone through.

Activists are pushing for Qassim and Hakim’s release to a group of Uighurs in the United States. According to The Miami Herald, around 1,000 Uighurs live in the United States, “many of whom themselves sought and won U.S. asylum.”

Although this case is maddening, it doesn’t surprise us. There have been repeated reports about the Bush administration mishandling Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Based on how stubborn our federal government is, we have a feeling cases like Qassim and Hakim’s won’t go away anytime soon.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.