March 1, 2010 / 4:06 PM / 10 years ago

Supreme Court gets rid of Guantanamo Uighurs case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court said on Monday it will not decide an appeal by Chinese Muslim detainees held for years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba because they have received at least one offer to go to another country.

The high court said the change in the facts of the case — with all the detainees who are members of the Uighur ethnic group now being offered resettlement in a foreign country — affected the legal issues that had been before the court.

Without ruling on the issues at the heart of the appeal, the justices sent the case back to a U.S. appeals court to decide what further proceedings now are “necessary and appropriate for the full and prompt disposition of the case in light of the new developments.”

At issue was whether federal judges in Washington have the power to order the government to release Guantanamo prisoners into the United States when no other country will take them. Now, other countries are willing to accept the Uighurs.

The Supreme Court set aside a U.S. appeals court ruling that only the executive branch can make immigration decisions about bringing the Uighurs into the United States.

Of the seven Uighurs who remain at Guantanamo, Switzerland recently said it would take two of them, the Pacific nation of Palau has offered to take the other five, and another unidentified nation also was willing to take them.

President Barack Obama has been hindered by political and legal hurdles in his efforts to close the Guantanamo prison, which now holds 188 detainees.

Last year, the Obama administration said it was considering freeing the Uighurs in the United States, but a political firestorm erupted, with many members of Congress strongly opposing such a transfer.

The case involving the Uighurs had been scheduled for arguments before the Supreme Court on March 23, but that now will not happen.

Editing by Vicki Allen

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