[JURIST] The US is planning on accepting into the country [Los Angeles Times report] up to seven Chinese Uighur [JURIST news archive] Muslims currently being held at the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST report] detention center, according to the Los Angeles Times Saturday. Last month, Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters that the US would consider accepting the 17 Uighur detainees [JURIST report] who have been cleared for release. The reported decision to accept the Uighurs, who would likely be settled in the country in small groups, drew strong criticism from politicians, including Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) [official website], who released a statement [press release] condemning the move. The Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] is still exploring where to transfer cleared detainees, and has declined to repatriate the Uighurs despite Chinese demands [JURIST report] because they have been linked to a militant separatist group and could face torture upon their return.
Earlier this month, the 17 Uighur detainees filed a petition for certiorari [JURIST report] with the US Supreme Court, asking the Court to grant their release. In February the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website] overruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] an October district court order [opinion and order, PDF; JURIST report] supporting the release of the Uighurs into the United states. The circuit court said that such a decision was reserved to either the executive or legislative branch. The US government has determined that the Uighurs are not unlawful enemy combatants [10 USC § 948a text; JURIST news archive], but have been linked with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) [CFR backgrounder], a militant group that calls for separation from China and has been a US-designated terrorist group since 2002.