CaribWorldNews, WASHINGTON, D.C., Tues. June 16, 2009: President Barack Obama on Monday publicly thanked the Bermuda government for its decision to accept four Chinese Muslim refugees previously detained at Guantanamo Bay.
His comments came during a press availability with Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy, who has also agreed to accept three specific detainees.
`I have to say, by the way, that Bermuda has done us a great service, as well, on that front, and I’m grateful to them,` remarked the President.
His comments echo those made on June 11th by his attorney general, Eric Holder, Jr., following the release of four Chinese Uighur (pronounced WEE’-gurs) detainees from the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba to the British territory of Bermuda.
The Uighurs, who are a Turkic Muslim minority from western China, were apprehended in Pakistan in 2001 after U.S. forces fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida bombed their camp in Afghanistan. The U.S. Justice Department has since concluded that `these individuals did not travel to Afghanistan with the intent to take any hostile action against the United States.`
The transfer of the four detainees to Bermuda marks the first resettlement of Uighurs from Guantánamo since 2006, when Albania agreed to accept five.
Before the resettlement of the Uighurs in Bermuda, headed by Premier Ewart Brown, the Guantánamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of the four detainees, including a threat evaluation, the DOJ added.
China has, however, insisted the Uighurs are part of a separatist movement it accuses of carrying out terroristic acts in its Xinjiang province bordering Central Asia.
But for now the four Uighurs are welcoming their freedom, learning to drive, scuba dive and bowl, said Glenn Brangman, a former military official who is helping reintroduce them to the world outside prison.
So far, the Bermuda opposition has urged the local Parliament to hold a no-confidence vote on the government.