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For Gitmo Uighurs, new life is no walk on the beach

The former detainees, including Uighurs released to Albania, say they are eager to put "terrorist" label behind them.

Former Guantánamo detainees, left to right, Ablakim Turahun, Abdulla Abdulqadir, Khelil Mamut, and Salahidin Abdulahat walk together in the historic district of St. George, on the island of Bermuda, Sunday, June 14. The four are Chinese ethnic Uighurs who have just been released from US military custody after years in Guantánamo, and are being resettled in Bermuda.

Brennan Linsley/AP

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Uighurs in Paradise” is the headline atop one of the many stories published today chronicling the first day of freedom for a group of four Uighurs released from Guantánamo to Bermuda.

There have also been tales of the guava juice-sipping lifestyle that awaits several Uighur prisoners who are expected to be resettled soon in the Pacific island republic of Palau.

Much of the news coverage has focused on the fears of local residents: How can someone locked in Guantánamo be declared safe? Are they Al Qaeda? What's a Uighur, anyway?

These are the same questions asked in 2006 when a group of five Uighurs from Guantánamo were released after a US federal court found their detention to be illegal.

Although China considers the Uighurs to be domestic terrorists (many, in fact, want their own Muslim homeland) their time in Guantánamo appears owed more to bad timing and poor luck than geopolitical considerations.

Wrong time, wrong place

The men had fled their home province of Xinjiang, China, and were near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in 2001 when the US bombing campaign began. The Uighurs have contended their time in Guantánamo was the result of overly zealous bounty hunters.


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