A federal judge has ordered the United States to release a group of Chinese Muslims from Guantanamo Bay, marking a decision that could lead to the freeing of several detainees in the near future.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled, Tuesday, that the U.S has no right to detain the 17 Muslims, known as "Uighurs," since they are no longer considered enemy combatants.
"Because the Constitution prohibits indefinite detentions without cause, the continued detention is unlawful," Urbina said.
His decision raises question of whether judges have the authority to release detainees. If the ruling is held, it could be seen as precedent in cases involving Guantanamo prisoners set for trial as early as late October.
Urbina gave the Bush administration until Friday to release the Chinese Muslims in Washington D.C., despite arguments in court that they pose a security threat.
The men were picked up in Pakistan and Afghanistan seven years ago and have been cleared for release since 2004. But the government could not find a country willing to take them.
The Chinese government has demanded they be returned to Beijing, but the Bush administration fears the detainees will face torture if they return home.
Justice Department attorney John O-Quinn said the government may appeal Urbina's ruling. Meanwhile, Uighurs in D.C. have volunteered to take the men in.
Source: Associated Press