"While dictators rage and statesmen talk, all Europe dances — to The Lambeth Walk."

Monday, 15 June 2009

Four Uighur Terror Suspects Living it up in Bermuda

After the idea of releasing inmates from Guantanamo Bay into mainstream American society was resoundingly rejected, Barack Obama had to look around for governments gullible or eager to please enough to take the inmates who were blocking the camp's closure.

Where to resettle the 17 Uighur inmates was a particularly pressing problem - as America pressured smaller governments to accept the men, China was also putting pressure on countries to reject them.

The Uighur are China's Muslim, Turkic minority, and many desire the independence of their home province, Xinjiang, from China. Because of this, China has demanded their repatriation so they can be put on trial. To be completely fair, whilst assuring us that they are not 'enemy combatants', the U.S. has failed to explain the presence of the men in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they were arrested.

It was announced on Saturday that the small Pacific island nation of Palau would take 13 of the men for 'temporary resettlement'. It seemed the perfect solution - Palau got $200 million in development aid, and it has no diplomatic relations with China. They would also get favourable conditions when re-negotiating a defence agreement with the United States.

What of the remaining 4 Uighurs?

Well, Obama palmed them off on the island of Bermuda, a British Overseas Territory located about 640 miles south west of North Carolina.

The only problem is that he failed to get the permission of officials in London - or even tell them that the deal was taking place:

The Foreign Office responded with ill-disguised fury tonight after it emerged that Britain's oldest colony has done a deal behind its back with the U.S. to accept four Guantanamo detainees.

The four Chinese Uighurs are already on the tiny North Atlantic island, with the U.S. Justice Department extending its thanks to the semi-autonomous Government of Bermuda.

But the Foreign Office slammed Bermudian Premier Ewart Brown's decision to accept the detainees without consulting the British Governor on the island first.

Though Bermuda's Constitution renders it largely independent, Britain retains control over four reserve powers including international affairs and security.

Tonight Sir Richard Gozny, Governor of Bermuda, said he and London had no knowledge of the deal struck by the Bermuda government.

He said: 'We were not involved in the negotiations, and we should have been. The government of Bermuda should have consulted government house at every stage and through me the British government.

'They didn’t do that.

'This is an issue that goes far wider than these four individuals. We now need to assess these four individuals.'

He said London has launched urgent talks with Washington.

Announcing the decision to accept the Guantanamo detainees this morning, Premier Ewart Brown said they would have the option to apply for Bermudian status - making them citizens of the British colony and theoretically able to apply for a British passport. He told a press conference: 'These men are landed in Bermuda in the short term, provided with the opportunity to become naturalized citizens and thereafter afforded the right to travel and leave Bermuda, potentially settling elsewhere.'

Ah yes. So, send them to a small country which does not have the power to resist - then let them apply for their Western passports later, when all the fuss has died down.

Some typically Machiavellian thinking from the Obama administration there.

The four men in question are Abdul Nasser, Huzaifa Parhat, Abdul Semet and Jalal Jalaladin. They were secretly flown to Bermuda two days ago, and are now living in beach front cottages at the expense of the American taxpayer.

Bermudian Home Affairs Minister David Burch made it quite clear that the men are innocent and more than welcome in Bermuda - but he did concede:

'We've underlined to the Bermuda Government that they should have consulted with the United Kingdom as to whether this falls within their competence or is a security issue, for which the Bermuda Government do not have delegated responsibility,' an FCO spokesman said.

'We have made clear to the Bermuda Government the need for a security assessment, which we are now helping them to carry out, and we will decide on further steps as appropriate.'

Yesterday the Daily Mail treated us to a spread about the new lives the Uighur are enjoying in Bermuda, which is a millionaire's playground with one the highest GDPs on earth.

They enjoyed sunset swimming, fishing, and a spot of shopping. Their dream is to open Bermuda's first Uighur restaurant:

'When we didn't have any country to accept us, when everybody was afraid of us ... Bermuda had the courage and was brave enough to accept us,' said Abdulla Abdulgadir, who at 30 is the youngest of the four men who relished their first weekend of freedom in seven years.

'We are not moving anywhere,' he said.

He and his companions have traded drab prison jumpsuits for comfortable cotton pants and knit shirts, and razor wire-encircled jail compounds for beach cottages, where they are staying at U.S. taxpayers' expense.

They hope to quickly find jobs in Bermuda - one of the world's wealthiest places because of its financial and insurance sector - and eventually start families.

The four Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gurs) also have immediate priorities, such as learning to drive, scuba dive and bowl, said Glenn Brangman, a former military official who is helping reintroduce them to the world outside prison.

'I told them one step at a time,' Mr Brangman said. 'They're beginning to live all over again.'

The latest developments have sparked a rash of jokes with Bermuda's tourism slogan 'feel the love' changed to 'Bermuda, it don't GITMO better than this'.

Aww. Despite all the cries about innocence - still no one has explained just what they were doing when they were captured, or why so many released prisoners from Guantanamo returned to terrorism, often fighting against Allied troops in Afghanistan.

Let's hope that this decision doesn't turn out to be as rash as it first appears.

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