New York, October 7, 2008—PEN American Center today hailed a federal court ruling ordering that 17 Uighur detainees at Guantanamo Bay be released into the United States. The decision could signal the end of a seven-year ordeal for the men, who were turned over to U.S. forces in Pakistan for a bounty in 2001 and have remained in the U.S. Naval base in Cuba despite being cleared for release more than four years ago.

“The continuing detention of these men, who the U.S. government itself long ago conceded were not enemy combatants or threats to the United States, has dramatically illustrated the evils of a detention system that ignores due process protections,” said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “We applaud Judge Ricardo M. Urbina’s forceful, courageous ruling, and urge the United States government to comply with it without qualification. Further delays will only prolong this grievous error.”

PEN has been following the cases of several Uighur writers and journalists who have been falsely jailed by the Chinese government on terrorism charges, and was deeply disturbed to learn that the United States allowed Chinese officials to interrogate the Uighur detainees at Guantanamo. In June, PEN wrote to President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressing “profound shock and disappointment over reports that the United States allowed officials from China…to interrogate detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, and that U.S. military personnel participated in possible mistreatment aimed at preparing the detainees for these interrogations.” Noting that PEN has conducted campaigns to free writers who have been jailed and tortured in other countries under the pretense of fighting terrorism, the letter criticizes the United States for delivering the message to rights-abusing governments “that it is acceptable to detain people without charge or trial and subject them to abusive interrogations, that we unapologetically engage in such abuses, and that we are willing not just to ignore, but to aid and abet such conduct by abusive governments.”


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Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105