Canada tells US it will not accept Guantanamo detainees

June 5th, 2009 - 1:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, June 5 (IANS) Canada has flatly rejected an American request to accept Chinese Uighur Muslim detainees, held at Guantanamo Bay prison, as refugees.
Seventeen Uighur Muslim detainees were captured in Afghanistan in 2001 when the NATO-led forces attacked the country after 9/11.

Uigher Muslims, who are of Turkish ethnic origin, are waging a separatist campaign in China’s Xinjiang province touching India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Since the detainees have been cleared for release by US courts, the Obama administration is asking various countries to accept them.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office said Thursday that it has been approached by the US administration to accept the Uigher prisoners.

“There really is no rationale for accepting them into the country,” a spokesman for the PMO told the Canadian media.

“There are security concerns related to Guantanamo detainees,” the spokesperson said.

The Uighur detainees made headlines Monday when they staged a protest - the first of its kind at Guantanamo Bay prison - when a group of journalists visited the island jail.

Since the Obama administration has decided to close the prison by January, it is asking allies in Europe to accept these detainees.

Apart from the 17 Uigher detainees, the US administration will also have to find ways to deal with the remaining 240 detainees.

The administration is unwilling to transfer them elsewhere in the US because of public concern about them.

China, which has faced a bloody rebellion from Uigher Muslims, has warned any country against accepting them.

Beijing wants the US to hand the 17 detainees to it to be tried as terrorists.

But the Americans have rejected the Chinese request. Algeria is the only country in the world which has accepted six detainees from Guantanamo.

Since taking office in January 2006, the Conservative Party government in Canada has taken a hard line against terrorist groups. It banned the Babbar Khalsa, Hamas and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam immediately after taking oath.

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