A group of Chinese Muslims detained for years at the Guantanamo Bay military prison should be allowed to settle in the United States, an exiled leader of the ethnic minority said Wednesday.
Officials in Washington have struggled to find a place for 13 Uighurs still being held in U.S. custody after the Pentagon decided last year that they were not enemy combatants. The effort took on new urgency this year after President Barack Obama announced plans to close Guantanamo.
At least six of the Uighurs _ who were all detained in Afghanistan or Pakistan in 2001 _ have agreed to a U.S.-brokered deal to be resettled in the Pacific island nation of Palau, and officials say they are trying to convince the others to accept the same deal.
Palau has agreed to accept all but one of the Uighurs, saying he is mentally ill and that Palau cannot care properly for him. The man's brother, also a Guantanamo detainee, has refused to leave his side.
Lawyers for the Uighurs say some have expressed concern that they could be vulnerable to persecution from China if they go to Palau, a remote and tiny country about 800 miles (1,290 kilometers) east of the Philippines. Beijing says the group are terrorists and wants them returned.
"The U.S. government should take good care of them and resettle them in good places, because they have been innocent for seven years in prison," Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer told The Associated Press during a visit Wednesday to New Zealand.
"The ideal situation is for all of them to be resettled in the U.S. _ at the least some of them should be resettled in the U.S," she said, speaking through an interpreter.
Congress has sought to block any Guantanamo detainees being resettled in the United States.
"We have no objections for them to go to Palau so long as they agree themselves to go. We are fine with that decision," said Kadeer, who lives in the United States and heads the World Uyghur Congress.
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