Guantanamo's Uighur detainees to get laptops

The Miami HeraldJune 2, 2009 

Two Uighur Muslim detainees at Camp Iguana, Chinese citizens captured in Afghanistan but cleared of enemy combatant status, stage a crayon and sketchbook protest on June 1, 2009 inside their detention center compound in this photo cleared for release by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A judge ordered them set free last year but the Obama administration has yet to find a nation to grant them asylum. "We need to Freedom. Do not oppress us," says one page of their protest poster book in a neck-down photo that U.S. military censors insist upon to make the men unrecognizable. The men staged the protest Monday afternoon and the military withheld permission for their release until Tuesday morning.

CAROL ROSENBERG / MIAMI HERALD

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — These captives already get to order fast-food takeout from the base and have access to a phone booth for weekly calls. Now some 17 Uighur Muslims awaiting a nation to grant them asylum are about to go high-tech, with laptops and web training.

While awaiting details of President Barack Obama's order to close the prison camps by Jan. 22, commanders here have ordered 20 laptops for the captives of Camp Iguana.

"As you know, detainees are leaving this place," said Army Lt. Col. Miguel Mendez, who oversees detainee classes, a multilingual library and now-emerging virtual computer lab. "We're getting them computer classes to prepare for their return."

The Uighur detainees won't be sending electronic mail to their lawyers or family members back in communist China anytime soon. Instead their lessons will be limited to DVD driven training.

A federal judge last year ordered that the men be set free after reviewing the American military's reasons for holding them in habeas corpus petitions that reached the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. by order of the Supreme Court.

But the Chinese citizens in exile have no place to go.

As devout Muslims, they fear religious persecution in their homeland, in part because of the stigma of having been held at Guantanamo for allegedly getting paramilitary training in Afghanistan before Sept. 11, 2001.

Attorney General Eric Holder said some could come to the United States for resettlement, triggering protests from members of Congress around Virginia, where other Uighurs live and have offered to settle them.

Nury Turkel, a Washington, D.C.-based Uighur rights activist, hailed the computer training development. Internet access could allow the men to listen to Uighur broadcasts of Radio Free Asia, he said.

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