Newly revealed documents provide a rare glimpse at the diplomatic
pressure used by China in its unsuccessful efforts to stop the
Swedish government from granting asylum to a Uighur prisoner
released from the Guantanamo prison.
Resettling the remaining 17 Uighur prisoners is widely viewed as
a critical milestone in the Obama administration's plan to close the
prison camp. If Sweden's example is any indication, the imprisoned
Uighurs present a foreign-policy Gordian knot.
The men are members of a largely Muslim minority in western
China. They have been ruled innocent, but are considered terrorists
at home. And while they are among the 30 of Guantanamo's 241
remaining prisoners who have been cleared for release, they remain
The formerly classified Swedish government documents show how
foreign-policy concerns could be contributing to their ongoing
detention. Given China's rising economic and political clout, much
could be at stake for countries who agree to offer homes.
The memos from the Swedish Foreign Office note how China viewed
it as " 'impossible to understand' that Swedish authorities had
given a visa for this terrorist," and how "very 'unsatisfied' "
China was that Sweden's Migration Court had granted Adil Hakimjan
The memos detail contacts between the Chinese Embassy and
Sweden's Foreign Office, and highlight escalating Chinese pressure
involving the potentially precedent setting case of Mr. Hakimjan, a
Uighur merchant. Hakimjan's Stockholm attorney, Sten De Geer,
recently obtained the documents under Swedish freedom of information
China's impatience with Hakimjan's asylum bid was obvious in the
memos. "The Chinese Embassy in Stockholm has, a number of times,
contacted the [Swedish] Foreign Office, both in this case and also
referring to the more general question if Sweden is going to receive
any Uighurs when the camp at Guantanamo is going to be closed,"
wrote the Foreign Office's China desk director in one of the
Hakimjan, who was captured by a bounty hunter in Pakistan in
2001, was released from Guantanamo in 2006 and now lives in Sweden.
A court there upheld his bid for political asylum in April.
Germany is now considering a US request that it accept nine of
Guantanamo's Uighurs. Seven others are being considered for
resettlement in the US.
China wants Uighurs returned for trial
Although the Uighurs have been cleared of wrongdoing, China views
them as domestic terrorists and wants to see them returned for
Following Albania's acceptance of five Guantanamo Uighurs in
2006, Albania suffered " 'a big diplomatic and economic hit,' "
according to a Pentagon official quoted in a Feb. 18 Los Angeles
Times story. The Times's Pentagon source added that "no one wants to
do that again."
China denies that it unduly pressured the Swedes. "Saying so-
called Chinese pressure is a block on the closure of Guantanamo Bay
is ridiculous," Zhou Lulu, press officer for China's Stockholm
embassy, said in an interview. "As we said, the Uighur terrorist
suspects should be returned to China for a fair trial, but not
sheltered for further terrorist activity, nor detained without trial
- that is an international obligation for all countries."
Addressing the Chinese position, Amnesty International
spokeswoman Sharon Singh observed that "since the Uighurs have been
persecuted in the past, it's a bit dubious that the Chinese would
hold fair trials for these men."
According to the documents, China repeatedly branded Hakimjan and
the other Guantanamo Uighurs as "terrorists." Two of the memoranda,
dated from February, detailed China's requests that information it
provided on Hakimjan be turned over to Sweden's Justice Department,
which was stated as done.
Subsequently, in late April, Swedish courts ultimately upheld
Hakimjan's bid for political asylum. …