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China attacks Guantanamo Uighurs' asylum in Switzerland

Prisoners at Guantamo Bay - 28 October 2009
The US is still holding about 200 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay

China has criticised a Swiss offer of asylum for two ethnic Uighur Chinese inmates at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

"The position of Switzerland will surely undermine China-Switzerland relations" a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told the AFP news agency.

Switzerland had agreed on Wednesday to take two Uighurs from Guantanamo Bay for humanitarian reasons.

China says all of the Guantanamo Uighurs are terrorist suspects.

It says they should be returned to China to face justice.

The spokesman, Ma Zhaoxu, repeated China's position that the two Uighurs were members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a group listed by the UN as a terrorist group.

"Every country has international obligations, and so has Switzerland" he added.

New homes

Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the decision had been made for humanitarian reasons, not diplomatic or economic ones.

She said the two men did not pose a security risk and should be able to find jobs once they had arrived at their new homes in the canton of Jura, in north-west Switzerland.

They were captured in Afghanistan with 20 other Uighurs but not later classified as "enemy combatants".

The US says it cannot repatriate them because of a risk they would be mistreated.

Instead, the US has found homes in Albania, Bermuda and the Pacific island nation of Palau for most of the group.

Once the two are sent to Switzerland, which is expected to happen in the next month, five of the Uighurs will be left in Guantanamo.

The Uighurs are a mainly-Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority based in western China's Xinjiang region.

US President Barack Obama has been trying to close the prison, but there are still about 200 detainees there.

Switzerland has taken one other Guantanamo inmate, an Uzbek man.



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