Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The last three of 17 Uighur Muslim detainees at the U.S. Navy prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba were transferred to Slovakia on Monday, according to the Pentagon.
The three are Yusef Abbas, 38, Hajiakbar Abdulghuper, 39, and Saidullah Khalik, 36. They have been detained since their capture in Afghanistan in 2001 but were deemed non-enemy combatants by a U.S. judge in 2008.
The resettlement of Abbas, Abdulghuper and Khalik is part of the Obama administration’s effort to close the Guantanamo prison, said Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby. The Slovakian government agreed to accept the three on humanitarian grounds, Kirby added.
Abbas, Abdulghuper and Khalik were supposed to be resettled in Costa Rica in September but the government of the central American country backtracked on its offer, said U.S. government officials who declined to be identified.
Other Uighur detainees were resettled in Albania in 2006 and in Palau, Bermuda and Switzerland. The remainder had nowhere to go until lately as no country offered to accept them.
Washington refused to send the Chinese nationals back to China fearing they would be persecuted there and resisted a judge’s order to resettle them in the U.S. Beijing is cracking down on Uighur dissidents in Xinjiang, where the Turkic-speaking minority live.
Slovakia, a member of NATO and the European Union, had taken three other Guantanamo detainees from Azerbaijan, Tunisia and Egypt in 2010. The Azerbaijani is still in the country while the Egyptian and Tunisian returned to their countries.
With the transfer of the three Uighur detainees, the number of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay is down to 155. A total 11 were transferred to other countries this year.