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DOJ asks DC Circuit to stay order releasing Uighurs from Guantanamo

[JURIST] Attorneys for the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed a motion [PDF text; press release] in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] late Tuesday seeking to delay the transfer of 17 Uighur detainees from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives], hours after a district judge ordered their release [JURIST report]. In the motion, Assistant Attorney General Gregory Katsas and other DOJ attorneys asked for a temporary stay of the order to allow consideration of a stay pending appeal to the DC Circuit. They wrote:

The district court's order ... raises legal questions of the highest magnitude. The order directly conflicts with the basic principle that a decision whether to admit an alien into the United States rests exclusively with the Executive. Furthermore, the district court's order of release into the United States contravenes the considered judgment of Congress that aliens who, like the detainees, have sought to wage terror on a sovereign government - even one other than the United States - are ineligible for admission into this country. Finally, the district court's order threatens serious harm to the interests of the United States and its citizens, by mandating the Government release in the Nation's capital 17 individuals who engaged in weapons training at a military training camp.
According to the motion, the DOJ will seek an emergency stay from the US Supreme Court [official website] if the DC Circuit denies a temporary stay. Bloomberg News has more. NPR has additional coverage.

Earlier Tuesday, US District Judge Ricardo Urbina of the US District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Bush administration to release the Uighurs into the United States, ruling from the bench [transcript] that the Constitution forbids their indefinite detention without cause. Urbina gave the government until Friday to release the Chinese Muslims and further ordered immigration authorities not to take the Uighurs into custody upon their arrival in the US. The government has previously linked the Uighurs with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [MIPT backgrounder], a militant group that calls for separation from China and has been a US-designated terrorist group since 2002. The Uighurs have remained at Guantanamo as US officials have been seeking countries willing to accept their resettlement. On Wednesday, the US Defense Department (DOD) announced [press release; AFP report] that it had transferred two more Guantanamo detainees - one to Algeria and one to Sudan. According to the DOD, about 520 detainees have been released from Guantanamo, while about 255 remain.

9:15 PM ET - Late Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the DC Circuit Courts of Appeals issued a temporary stay [order, PDF] of the order to release the Guantanamo Uighurs into the United States. The appeals judges wrote: "The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the motion for stay pending appeal and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion." Reuters has more.

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