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Last 3 of 22 Uighur detainees transferred from Guantanamo Bay prison

  |   Dec. 31, 2013 at 11:31 AM
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- Three Chinese detainees at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were sent voluntarily to Slovakia, the U.S. Defense Department announced Tuesday.

The three were the last of 22 ethnic Uighurs from China captured in Afghanistan after the U.S. invasion in 2001 and brought to Guantanamo facility, where they remained until a country agreed to accept them, the New York Times reported.

Although the military decided that the Uighurs were not at war with the United States and should be released, the United States could not repatriate the Uighurs because the Chinese government has a history of mistreating Uighurs. Other countries expressed reluctance to take them in, in part because of diplomatic pressure exerted by China.

"The United States is grateful to the government of Slovakia for this humanitarian gesture and its willingness to support U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. "The United States coordinated with the government of Slovakia to ensure the transfer took place in accordance with appropriate security and humane treatment measures."

Nine detainees left Guantanamo in December, and 11 since last summer, when President Obama revived his efforts to close the prison. There are 155 prisoners remaining at the facility.

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