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Supreme Court to hear Uighurs' case

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., left, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. could have greater impact in the court's new term.
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., left, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. could have greater impact in the court's new term. (By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)
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A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overruled Judge Ricardo M. Urbina's decision in the case, saying only the legislative and executive branches had the power to exclude or admit foreigners to the country.

The Obama administration told the Supreme Court that the appeals court had reached the correct decision.

"There is a fundamental difference between ordering the release of a detained alien to permit him to return home or to another country and ordering that the alien be brought to and released in the United States without regard to immigration laws," Kagan wrote in the government's response.

She also sent the court a letter last month essentially asking for more time, saying the government was close to a solution.

New homes for some

Four Uighurs have been sent to Bermuda, while six have accepted an invitation to move to the Pacific island nation of Palau. The country has offered to take six of the seven other Uighurs at Guantanamo, and Kagan said some departures for Palau are imminent.

"The United States is working diligently to find an appropriate place to resettle the remaining Uighur detainees," she wrote. She said the men were being held in the least restrictive part of the facility, with special privileges.

But the last of the detainees, Arkin Mahmud, has found no country willing to take him because of his severe mental health problems, and his brother has refused to leave without him.

The court will not hear the case until next year. If the government is successful in finding a place for the men, it might make this case moot. But Susan Baker Manning, a lawyer who represents the men, said that would only defer a decision that must be made. "Standing behind the 13 Uighur petitioners are many more men with the same argument," she said.

After the Boumediene decision, judges have ordered the release of 30 detainees since late last year. Eighteen of those, including the 13 Uighurs, remain at Guantanamo Bay, according to lawyers representing detainees challenging their detentions in the District's federal court.

The case is Kiyemba v. Obama.

Staff writers Del Quentin Wilber and Tara Bahrampour contributed to this report.

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