Uighurs’ Lawyer Decries ‘Hysteria’ Used to Keep His Clients In Prison
In an attempt to counter some of the more bizarre and fantastical claims being made about the Uighur prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, lawyer Sabin Willett writes a persuasive rebuttal in the New York Daily News today to those opposing his clients’ release by claiming the Uighurs are not only dangerous terrorists but, as former GOP House Speaker New Gingrich charged, “smashed a television” because it depicted “women with bare arms.”
It’s “[a]nother lie,” Willett wrote, a partner at the law firm of Bingham McCutcheon. “Just a flat-out falsehood, based on air. It never happened.”
Since news broke that the Justice Department was considering the release of the Uighurs, Willet writes, “the most astonishing stories began to circulate” about their alleged connections to terrorism, even though courts had specifically rejected those claims, the Bush Justice Department had specifically told a federal judge that they had no evidence that the men were dangerous, and the military in 2004 and 2005 had approved their release to civilian populations.
The truth is that five Uighur companions from Afghanistan have lived peacefully among civilian populations in the capitals of Albania and Sweden for three years now.
But the problem extends beyond the Uighurs.
There are about 60 men at Gitmo, like the Uighurs, who are neither enemies nor criminals in anyone’s estimation. No law justifies their imprisonment. They have been held in a military prison for longer than any real enemy of the country was ever held before. So what are we going to do about them?
We could free them, Willet suggests, because “in this country we just don’t capture and imprison people without a legal reason.” Or, “the hell with them. They stay there forever. And I really do mean forever. … We don’t seriously think that a hysterical smear campaign about jihadism, Sharia law, and ETIM [the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, another terrorist group Republicans have claimed they belong to] is going to persuade some other country that they are just peachy for its civilian populations, do we?” He continues:
If that’s our view, we need to be honest with ourselves about our American values. We are fine with holding people in a prison forever, without any legal basis. [...]
We talk a lot in this country about freedom. But talk is cheap. If we follow the House’s actions [the GOP bill titled "The Keep Terrorists Out of America Act"], then we may care about security, but we don’t give a damn about freedom.