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US Frees Last Chinese Uighurs from Guantanamo

  • VOA News

FILE - Two Chinese Uighurs, released from Guantanamo in 2006, are seen following their arrival at a resettlement center in Tirana, Albania.
The United States has freed the last three Uighur prisoners from Guantanamo Bay clearing their way for their new lives in Slovakia, which agreed to accept them.

The men, Muslims from China, were among 22 Uighurs arrested in Afghanistan and held as alleged terrorists.

A U.S. judge ordered all 22 freed in 2008, but U.S. officials had trouble finding new home countries for all of them. Authorities say the Uighurs would likely face prison and torture if sent back to their native China.

U.S. officials thanked Slovakia for agreeing to accept the three men. They say the resettlement is an important step toward President Barack Obama's goal to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison.

The 19 other Uighur prisoners have resettled in other countries, including Bermuda, El Salvador, and Switzerland.

The ethnic Uighurs are Muslims who want an independent homeland in China's northwestern Xinjiang region. They have no association with Muslim extremists such as the Taliban. The Uighurs have long accused the Chinese government of discrimination. China accuses them of stirring up violence and plotting terrorism.