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Sweden accepts ex-Guantanamo man

Adel Hakimjan
Mr Hakimjan says he was sold to US authorities by Pakistani farmers

Sweden has agreed to give asylum to a Chinese Muslim man who was held at Guantanamo Bay for almost five years.

The migration court accepted that Adel Hakimjan, from China's Uighur minority, was not a terrorist and granted him permanent residency as a refugee.

There are still 17 Uighurs being held at Guantanamo Bay. They refuse to return to China because they fear persecution there.

Activists welcomed Sweden's move and urged other countries to follow suit.

Zachary Katznelson, legal director of UK-based rights group Reprieve, said Britain and Sweden had led the way in accepting former detainees.

"We hope this is the first step for countries across Europe in accepting the men from Guantanamo who cannot be returned to their home countries," he said.

Humanitarian concerns

The 17 Uighurs still being held at Guantanamo have all been cleared for release, but the US cannot find any country willing to take them.

Beijing has labelled them "terror suspects" and said it "strongly opposes" any country taking them in.

Kauser, Adel Hakimjan's sister
Mr Hakimjan's sister Kauser had not seen her brother in a decade

The authorities in China accuse some of them of being members of the East Turkestan Independence Movement - a Muslim separatist organisation Beijing says uses terrorist tactics.

Mr Hakimjan says he fled persecution in China in 1999 intending to travel to Turkey to find work.

But after the US invasion of Afghanistan, he claims he was sold to the US authorities by Pakistani farmers for about $5,000 (3,500).

In 2006 he was finally released along with four other Uighurs. They went to Albania because it was the only country willing to accept them.

According to Swedish newspaper The Local, he filed an application for asylum in Sweden after taking part in a conference there in late 2007.

Initially his application was turned down under what is known as the first country of asylum principle - he had already been granted asylum in Albania - and he was due to be sent back there.

But he appealed on the grounds that his sister - his only living relative outside China - lives in Sweden.

Migration Judge Carl-Otto Schele said Mr Hakimjan's family connections and humanitarian concerns had contributed to the court's decision to overturn the deportation order.

He said the court had found "sufficiently compelling reasons to make an exception from the first country of asylum principle and grant him permanent residence as a refugee".

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