The White House says it "strongly disagrees" with a U.S. judge's decision to order the release into the United States of 17 Chinese Muslims detained at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

A White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, says the order to release the detained group of ethnic Uighurs by Friday is contrary to U.S. immigration laws. She said the U.S. Department of Justice will immediately seek to reverse the decision in a court of appeals.

Tuesday's ruling from a U.S. federal district court is a victory for the group of 17, who requested to be released into the U.S. after seven years at Guantanamo.

U.S. officials no longer consider the 17 Uighurs "enemy combatants," but have said they will continue to hold them at Guantanamo until they are accepted by another country.

The Bush administration has denied Beijing's requests to repatriate the 17 Uighurs, because they are considered terrorists by China. Rights groups say they might be tortured if returned.

The U.S. government cleared the Uighurs for release in 2004 and has tried unsuccessfully to resettle them.

China's Foreign Ministry says the men belong to the East Turkistan Islamic Movement. The United States and the United Nations have labeled the group a terrorist organization.

The rights group Amnesty International welcomed Tuesday's ruling, calling it a "huge victory" for fundamental liberties. But the group accused the Bush administration of ignoring other court opinions and warned this one will mean little if the government fails to follow it.