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Uighur detainees decision delayed to next Supreme Court term

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] closed its 2008 term Monday without deciding whether to hear the case of the remaining 13 Chinese Uighur Muslims at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives]. The Court did not provide a reason [AFP report] for delaying its decision. Court watchers believe the Court's decision may have been based on their desire to avoid interference with a potential diplomatic solution [SCOTUSblog report]. If the remaining Uighurs are transferred overseas before the Court decides to hear their case, it will likely be dismissed as moot. If not, the Court may reach a decision on whether to take the case in October when the 2009 term begins.

Earlier this month, four of the Uighurs being held at Guantanamo Bay were transferred to Bermuda [JURIST report]. Palau President Johnson Toribiong has said that his government had reached an agreement with the US [JURIST report] to accept all 17 Uighur detainees, but US officials said later that no final agreement had been reached. The Uighurs' release was ordered [opinion and order, PDF; JURIST report] by a US district court in October, but that decision was overturned [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in February by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website]. The Chinese government has repeatedly demanded the repatriation of the Uighurs, maintaining that they are members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [CFR backgrounder], a militant group that calls for separation from China and has been a US-designated terrorist group since 2002. The US has previously rejected China's calls to repatriate [JURIST report] the Uighurs, citing fear of torture upon their return.

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