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Supreme Court dismisses appeal by Uighurs held at Guantanamo

The Supreme Court Monday decided not to hear the appeal of a group of Uighurs who have been held without charge at Guantanamo Bay for eight years. The case was originally scheduled for the high court's docket March 23.

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In this June 2009 file photo, a guard and a Chinese ethnic Uighur Guantanamo detainee communicate at Camp Iguana detention facility, at Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base, Cuba.

Brennan Linsley/AP/File

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The US Supreme Court decided Monday not to hear the appeal of a group of Uighurs, members of an ethnic group from western China, who have been held without charge at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for eight years.

The high court had agreed to take up their case to examine whether a federal judge acted within his authority when he ordered the government to bring the detainees from Guantánamo to the United States for release pending their possible resettlement in a third country. Its decision came three weeks before the justices were originally scheduled to hear the case.

The case, Jamal Kiyemba v. Obama, had the potential to be one of the most important of the current term, raising difficult questions about national security and a potential clash between the executive and judicial branches of government.

Government lawyers argued that the judge exceeded his authority in ordering the release as part of the Uighurs’ successful habeas corpus challenge. Justice Department lawyers said that the executive branch controls immigration and has the exclusive authority to decide who may or may not be admitted into the US.

A federal appeals court panel sided with the government. The Uighurs appealed to the Supreme Court, and the justices had agreed to hear their case March 23. (For more Monitor coverage of the case, click here.)

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