Canada refuses U.S. request to accept Chinese Muslims from Guantanamo
Canada has turned down a request from the U.S. government to take in a number of Chinese Muslims currently being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and deemed by Washington to be members of a terrorist group.
Kory Teneycke, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, acknowledged Thursday that they received an inquiry from the Obama administration about taking in some detainees.
"The government had a previous request from the Bush administration and in both cases the government's position is that we’re not interested in taking detainees from Guantanamo Bay," Teneycke said.
"In the case of other detainees who are not Canadian citizens and don't have a connection to Canada there is no justification for Canada to take any such individuals."
Canada has been asked to admit some of the 17 Uighur detainees still held at Guantanamo. They are Muslims from western China. The United States has said it cannot repatriate them to China because they face punishment there.
Detention at Guantanamo ruled illegal
They have been cleared for release by the Pentagon and U.S. courts have ruled their detention is illegal.
The Obama administration has blocked efforts to free the Uighurs immediately and has reportedly insisted that once they are settled abroad, none of the Uighurs, or any other Guantanamo detainee for that matter, can ever set foot on U.S. soil.
The U.S. government also has not retracted its claim that the detained Uighurs once belonged to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is designated a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department.
Obama, who has vowed to close down the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been hoping other countries would take some detainees who have been deemed not to be a threat by the U.S. military.
But so far, many leaders of countries that have called on the facility to be shut down have refused to accept the prisoners.
Washington lawyer Susan Baker Manning, who is part of a legal team that fought to win the release of the Uighurs, said she suspected the real reason behind Canada's refusal to do so is likely pressure from China.
"Chinese pressure is a very, very real issue and it's our understanding that that has been the true barrier to resettling these men for many years," she said.