[JURIST] A US district judge ordered the Bush administration [minute order, PDF text] Tuesday to release 17 Uighur detainees from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], ruling that the Constitution forbids their indefinite detention without cause. In a ruling [transcript] read from the bench, Judge Ricardo Urbina [official profile] of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] gave the government until Friday to release the Chinese Muslims into the United States, marking the first time that a US court has ordered Guantanamo detainees to be freed. Urbina rejected arguments by the Justice Department (DOJ) [official website] that the court could not require the Uighurs' release without violating the doctrine of separation of powers. He further ordered immigration authorities not to take the Uighurs into custody upon their arrival in the US. Another hearing in the case is scheduled for October 16. AP has more. The Washington Post has additional coverage.
Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] called on the US government Monday to parole the Uighurs [press release]. In June, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ordered the government [opinion, PDF text; JURIST report] to release or transfer one of the Uighurs from Guantanamo, ruling that he had been improperly designated as an enemy combatant. In March, one of the Uighurs wrote in a letter [JURIST report] released by his lawyers that the detainees had not been told why they were being held at the military facility. 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 while US officials have been seeking countries willing to accept their resettlement.
10/14/08 - Urbina's memorandum opinion [PDF text] accompanying the order to free the Uighur detainees has been released.