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Freed from Guantánamo, a Uighur clings to asylum dreams in Sweden

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After spending six months at a US prison in Kandahar, Afghanistan, the Uighurs were transferred to Guantánamo. Hakimjan says the first six to eight months were the toughest – he was completely isolated and unable to communicate. Later, he was transferred to a shared compound.

Freed, but without a country

Although a US military tribunal officially cleared Hakimjan of any wrongdoing in March 2005, it wasn't until another year passed that he and four other prisoners were chained, hooded, and flown to Albania for release.

In November 2007, after traveling to Sweden to speak at a human rights conference, Hakimjan filed for political asylum. His claim was initially denied by a Swedish migration board, but he was victorious in Swedish Migration Court in February. That made Hakimjan the first of those cleared of wrongdoing and released from Guantánamo to be granted political asylum within the European Union (EU).

China has repeatedly expressed its "concern" to the Swedish government over Hakimjan's asylum bid, according to Swedish media reports. If Hakimjan is returned to China, he could face further persecution.

According to a recent Amnesty International report, in Xinjiang Province "authorities continued to use the US-led 'war on terror' to justify harsh repression of ethnic Uighurs." The report also notes an increasing number of Uighurs, a Turkic, largely Muslim people, had been "forcibly" returned to China from abroad, and face "the death penalty and possible execution."

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