Guantanamo Detainees Germany Seeks to Avoid Taking Uighurs

US President Barack Obama had been hoping that Germany would take nine Guantanamo detainees deemed ready for release. But Berlin has presented a list of conditions -- which likely can't be met.

During his brief visit to Germany last week, US President Barack Obama told the gathered press in Dresden that, when it came to the possibility of Germany accepting some of the Guantanamo prisoners due to be released, concrete demands were not yet on the table.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is opposed to accepting Uighur detainees from Guantanamo.

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is opposed to accepting Uighur detainees from Guantanamo.

"We have not asked (Chancellor Angela Merkel) for hard commitments, and she has not given us any hard commitments beyond having a serious discussion about (whether there are) ways that we can solve this problem" Obama declared.

Strictly speaking, that may be true. But according to information obtained by SPIEGEL, Germany has long since blocked the idea of accepting Guantanamo detainees -- and has done so without having to issue an outright rejection.

In talks at the end of May, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble presented US Attorney General Eric Holder with a list of criteria to be fulfilled before Germany would take nine Uighur detainees. Schäuble said Washington needed to present a clear case as to why the Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority in north-western China, couldn't be taken in by the US or other countries. He also said America had to offer proof that they weren't dangerous, and that they had a personal connection to Germany. He told Holder that Germany was unable to accept people who couldn't travel to the US on a simple tourist visa.

While Schäuble didn't say "no," the criteria may be prohibitive. In reporting on the discussion to the Chancellery, Schäuble's office presented the conversation as a rebuff of the US request.

As part of Obama's efforts to close the Guantanamo prison, the White House has been seeking homes for a number of prisoners deemed by US officials to be safe, among them a group of 17 Uighurs. At the end of April, senior American diplomat Daniel Fried, who is responsible for trying to resettle Guantanamo prisoners, handed over a list of nine Uighur prisoners to Berlin. Germany has been asked to take them partly because of a large Uighur community in Munich.

Despite Chinese insistence, the US is reluctant to return the detainees to China for fear that they will be mishandled there. The Uighur minority has often been subject to brutal repression in China in the past.

cgh -- SPIEGEL


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