Page last updated at 17:51 GMT, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Guantanamo Bay release overturned

Guantanamo Bay US military prison
The 17 have been in Guantanamo Bay for nearly eight years

A US federal appeals court has rejected the release of 17 Guantanamo Bay detainees onto US soil, reports say.

A US judge ruled last year that the 17 Uighurs - Chinese Muslims - were no longer enemy combatants and should be released into the United States.

China has requested their return, but the US will not send them home for fear they will be persecuted.

No other country has agreed to take the men, who have been detained since they were picked up in Afghanistan in 2001.

The appeals court said that only the executive branch, not the judiciary, could make decisions on immigration, Associated Press news agency said.

Albania has taken in five other Uighur men who were held at Guantanamo Bay, but earlier in February Beijing urged other countries not to accept the men.

China wants to put the men on trial for alleged separatist activities and said any country that takes them in would be harbouring terrorists.

The ruling puts a further obstacle in the way of President Barack Obama's bid to close the Guantanamo Bay prison by early next year.

There are approximately 250 detainees still at the prison and the 17 Uighurs had been expected to be some of the first released under President Obama.

The decision by District Judge Ricardo Urbina last October that the 17 men should be released into the US angered the White House of then-President George Bush.

The Bush administration said their release into the US would have posed a security risk and set a precedent for the release of other detainees onto American soil.

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