Wed, Mar 18, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Munich ready to welcome Guantanamo’s Uighurs

AGENCIES , BERLIN AND WASHINGTON

Munich, best known for Bayern Munich, lederhosen and its beer festival, is also home to the West’s largest exiled community of Uighurs.

Germany’s third-largest city is also the first city in the world to say it is prepared to take in 17 Uighurs held in Guantanamo Bay for seven years, although they were cleared of any wrongdoing.

The city council passed a resolution in last month in favor of accepting the 17 as rights groups believe they face torture if they return to China, where the authorities regard them as “Chinese terrorists.”

The Uighurs were captured in Afghanistan but since cleared by Washington. They have become something of a diplomatic headache as the US refuses to hand them over to China.

By agreeing to accept the group, Munich intends to send an “early signal” to the German government, in case US President Barack Obama asks Germany to take them in, said the city’s Social Democrat mayor, Christian Ude.

Asgar Can, vice-president of the World Uighur Congress, said the Uighurs had a good chance of being accepted in Munich when the Guantanamo Bay prison closes, which Obama has pledged to bring about by early next year.

“Our community is very well integrated. That’s our trump card when it comes to taking in the Guanatanamo Uighurs,” he said.

Five hundred of Germany’s 600 Uighurs call Munich home, he said.

Meanwhile, an EU delegation questioned the Obama administration about Guantanamo Bay, as member countries weighed whether to accept a US request to take some of the detainees when the controversial prison is shut.

Jacques Barrot, the EU’s justice and home affairs commissioner, and Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer, presented US Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday with a detailed list of questions, including questions about security risks, the inmates and their detentions.

The officials also asked “whether the administration has decided never to do this again, never to have another Guantanamo,” Barrot said.

He said the officials also discussed other US detention facilities.

Langer said the officials did not include conditions the US would have to meet for European countries to accept detainees.

“We passed to Holder a clear message,” Barrot said. “We have come here to listen and to lend a helping hand if needed.”

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