Thursday, June 18, 2009

US congressman flying to Island to meet Uighurs

US congressman flying to Island to meet Uighurs

By Amanda Dale

The Chairman of the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on International Organisations, Human Rights and Oversight is expected to meet the four Uighurs this weekend.

Congressman Bill Delahunt is to travel to Bermuda to meet the former Guantanamo detainees, to learn more about their "apprehension and detention", according to his Chief of Staff.

The Democrat is currently engaged in a series of hearings into how 22 Uighurs were arrested in late 2001 on suspicion of terrorist links to Al Qaeda.

Chief of Staff Mark Forest said Congressman Delahunt and Subcommittee ranking member Dana Rohrabacher have previously tried to interview the men at Camp X-Ray, without success.

He told The Royal Gazette: "Mr. Delahunt and Mr. Rohrabacher want to get their testimony and have made several attempts in the past to interview them but were denied permission to do so.

"The Bush Administration refused them on at least a couple of occasions, but this is a Human Rights Oversight Subcommittee so obviously they should be given the right to speak to these people.

"In the past we were concerned the Chinese Government had access to them (at Guantanamo).

"A lot of the information about the so-called threat from these men came from the Chinese Government fear-mongering and we've been rubberstamping that.

"The Congressman is interested in learning more about their apprehension and detention, so our intention is to speak with them.

"Apparently there were bounties that were paid and the people who allegedly turned them in were paid handsomely. It's an amazing story and a very sad chapter in terms of American history."

The Premier's Press Secretary Glenn Jones said in a statement last night that Congressman Delahunt is to visit the Island tomorrow, to meet the Chinese Muslims plus Bermuda Government officials.

Mr. Forest said he could not confirm the Congressman's arrival but that it was anticipated to be this weekend.

"We are making plans to get out there (Bermuda) but at the moment no schedule has been finalised," he said.

He added the House Foreign Affairs Oversight Subcommittee would continue to hold hearings into the circumstances surrounding the detention of Uighurs at Guantanamo "well into the summer".

"Our hearings will continue over the next several months. We are also interested in speaking to the Uighurs released elsewhere, such as in Albania," said Mr. Forest.

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