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Washington (AFP) – The last three Uighurs who had languished in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay for over a decade despite facing no charges have been freed and sent to Slovakia, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.

“This transfer and resettlement constitutes a significant milestone in our effort to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement, thanking Slovakia for taking the three men in.

Yusef Abbas, Saidullah Khalik, and Hajiakbar Abdul Ghuper, who were transferred from the U.S. military jail in Guantanamo Bay, southeastern Cuba, were the last of a group of 22 ethnic Chinese Muslims captured in Afghanistan in 2001.

They had been cleared since 2008 for release from the notorious jail — opened in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States — but the United States refused to return them to China where they faced persecution, and had struggled to find a third country to take them in.

All the Uighurs have been now resettled in six countries over the years, including Albania, Palau and El Salvador.

“The United States is grateful to the government of Slovakia for this humanitarian gesture and its willingness to support U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” Kirby added in his statement.

Department of State special envoy Cliff Sloan added Washington had cooperated closely with Slovakia over the transfers.

“We have worked together on humanitarian migration issues for many years, and this important humanitarian action reflects Slovakia’s sustained assistance, which, on the issue of Guantanamo, began in 2009,” Sloan said in a statement.

The Uighurs — members of a largely Muslim people who have long accused China of discrimination — were cleared years ago of wrongdoing and had been staying in a special part of the prison with a library and recreational space.

In principle, Washington has been seeking to send cleared inmates to their home country. But it has refused Beijing’s demands to repatriate the Uighurs, saying they would face almost certain persecution.

Uighurs hail from China’s western Xinjiang region, which in 2009 witnessed some of the country’s deadliest ethnic violence in years.

The Guantanamo releases were announced a day after a new outbreak of violence, when Chinese authorities said they had shot dead eight “attackers” armed with knives and explosives during a “terrorist attack” on a Xinjiang police station.

An exiled Uighur group on Tuesday called for an independent investigation into the incident.

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From left Reps. Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and Louis Gohmert

Screenshot from The Hill video

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and three other “Sedition Caucus” Republicans held a press conference Tuesday allegedly to decry the conditions at the D.C. jail, which is housing accused suspects awaiting trial for actions during the January 6 Capitol riot. But Greene and her three co-members used the event primarily to further false far-right claims about the insurrection, while wrongly claiming they are being “persecuted” by the government – a talking point Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly used.

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Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir.

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