China demands return of five Gitmo detainees
Updated: 2006-05-10 10:07
Beijing demanded immediate return of five Chinese nationals released from the
Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba on Tuesday, saying the US decision to
allow them to seek asylum in Albania is in violation of international law.
The five were held in Guantanamo for several years after being picked up
during the US invasion of Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks. Washington said last week it was letting them go to Albania
after concluding they posed no terrorist threat to the US.
U.S. attorney Sabin
Willett, second right, and five Uighurs, Chinese Muslims, released from
the Guantanamo Bay detention center have lunch at a restaurant in Tirana
Monday May 8, 2006. China on May 9, 2006, demanded the return of five
Chinese Muslims released from the Guantanamo Bay detention center,
blasting a U.S. decision to allow them to seek asylum in Albania. The
United States allowed the five Chinese to go to Albania after concluding
they posed no terrorist threat to the United States but might face
persecution if they returned to China.
"We have made representations to the
related countries and urged them to send the five people to China as soon as
possible," China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a regular
press conference in Beijing. "The five people accepted by the Albanian side are
by no means refugees but terrorist suspects. We think they should be repatriated
Albania said it would accept the five Chinese members of the Uygur minority
who are suspected of being members of a terrorist organization known as the East
Turkistan Islamic Movement.
East Turkistan, upon which the UN Security Council imposed sanctions in 2002,
is part of an international terrorist network and had close relations with
terrorist groups such as al-Qaida. The terrorist group had been seeking
separation of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region from China.
"Accepting the Guantanamo suspects as refugees violates the UN Charter and
international law," Liu said, adding Beijing was urging US and Albanian
authorities "to send them back as soon as possible."
The five Chinese could not be regarded as refugees; they were terrorist
suspects and should be repatriated to China immediately, Chinese Ambassador to
Albania Tian Changchun was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency as saying.
The East Turkestan Islamic Movement is believed to have links to al-Qaida and
has received arms and training from the terror network.
"They fought on
the side of Taliban during the Afghan War, and this fact alone proves that they
are nothing but terrorist suspects," Tian said.
The United States transported the five Chinese to Albania for settlement on
Friday. They had been captured by US troops in 2001 in Pakistan and imprisoned
in the US military camp at Guantanamo Bay ever since.
The United States
had asked about 20 countries to offer settlements to the detainees. Among the
countries that had declined were Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and
In announcing their release last week, the US Defense Department
gave scant information about the former detainees. Its statement did not say
explicitly why they were not returned to China.