A federal judge has ordered the release of 17 Chinese Uighers detained at Guantanamo Bay, and specifically into the US. Judge Ricardo Urbina demanded that the federal government produce them in his courtroom by Friday, and refused to stay his order for an appeal. He also warned immigration officials not to do their jobs by detaining these suspected terrorists:
A federal judge today ordered that 17 Chinese Muslims held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison be released into the United States by Friday, agreeing with the detainees’ attorneys that the Constitution bars holding the men indefinitely without cause. …
Justice Department lawyer John O’Quinn asked Urbina to stay the order for a week, giving the government time to evaluate its options and file an appeal. Urbina rejected that request and ordered the Uighurs to appear in his courtroom for a hearing on Friday. He said he would then release them into the custody of 17 Uighur families living in the Washington area.
O’Quinn said the legal ramifications from the order are complex and that he wants time to consult with officials from the Department of Homeland Security. Under existing U.S. law, immigration authorities may be forced to take the Uighurs into custody shortly after they arrive in the United States, O’Quinn said. The Justice Department alleges they have ties to a group that has been designated a terrorist organization by the government.
Urbina chastised O’Quinn for suggesting that the government might take the Uighurs into custody for a second time.
The seventeen men were captured in Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan during the 2001-2 campaign to topple the Taliban and fight al-Qaeda. The judge said that the government had unreliable evidence to show them as a threat to the United States. If living in terrorist camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan doesn’t provide prima facie evidence of just that kind of threat, it’s difficult to know what Urbina needs.
Now, unless the 4th District overrules Urbina in the next 72 hours, we will knowingly transport 17 Uighers who lived in terrorist training camps to our nation’s capital, and release them on their own recognizance. Why? Because we can’t send them to China, who might mistreat them. Every other country in the world has more sense than to agree to take these Uigher separatists, who like many of their compatriots, have allied themselves with al-Qaeda. Every other country, that is, except the US, or at least one of its judges.
This is what we can expect when the judiciary decides to usurp the role of the executive branch in waging war. Urbina ruled that the detention of the Uighers violates the Constitution with their indefinite detention, but that doesn’t apply to unlawful combatants of any war, and never has. We would be within our rights to hold prisoners of war until an end to hostilities, and Urbina has now given these terrorists a better deal than POWs get.
To paraphrase a great line from the late Paul Newman in The Verdict: I wouldn’t mind Urbina waging the war if he wasn’t so determined to lose it.