After months of
legal uncertainty, a group of Chinese Muslims who have been held for years at
the detention camp for suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba will be
resettled in the remote Pacific island nation of Palau.
Johnson Toribiong announced Wednesday his government would be "honored and
proud" to temporarily resettle the 17 Uighurs being held at the controversial
U.S. detention center.
Mr. Toribiong agreed to Washington's request to
accept the Uighurs after talks with U.S. diplomat Daniel Fried, who is leading
the U.S. State Department's effort to resettle the Guantanamo detainees. U.S.
President Barack Obama has ordered Guantanamo to be shut down by January of next
The Bush administration refused to designate the Uighurs as "enemy
combatants." It was in late 2008 when a U.S. federal judge ordered the men to be
released into the United States. That ruling was eventually overturned by an
Sandra Pierantozzi, Palau's minister of state, in an
interview with VOA, says her nation is glad to have the Uighurs.
they want to settle in Palau we would welcome them," Pierantozzi said. "This is
very much in line with the culture of Palau, where people who drift in and who
needs settlement and place are welcome to our shores and our tradition will take
care of them and insert them into our society."
The Uighurs are from
China's western Xinjiang province. Beijing has accused the Uighurs, who dominate
the province, as separatists who want to create an independent "East Turkestan."
Washington is refusing to send the Uighurs back to China, fearing they would be
Palau, a former U.S. trust territory until achieving
independence in 1994, maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan, China's
longtime rival, rather than Beijing. Pierantozzi says her nation is not
concerned over China's likely displeasure over the resettlement of the Uighurs.
"We continue to conduct business as usual, we are a free sovereign
country, we are free to make decisions for us, as we believe and see for our
benefit," Pierantozzi said. "and also we are a small country but we are a part
of the United Nations and the world community of nations, so we try to do our
Although they would finally be free, Pierantozzi says the
Uighurs may face some unexpected challenges living in Palau, a lightly populated
chain of islands located 800 kilometers east of the Philippines.
like to think it is paradise, but you have to also remember the Uighurs come
from a landlocked country in China, and for all intents and purposes, they make
not like living in a small island surrounded by water," Pierantozzi said. "So
we're not really sure they will want to come our not."
denies reports her government agreed to accept $200 million in aid from the U.S.
in exchange for accepting the Uighurs.