Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Politics

Politics

Lawmakers Weigh Uighur Hearing in Bermuda

Former Guantanamo detainee Khelil Mamut, right, talks with a former Bermudan military official assigned to help him adjust to life in Bermuda. (AP Photo)

The next time Rep. Bill Delahunt's subcommittee holds a hearing, it might just be lit by tiki torches. 

Delahunt, D-Mass., and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, respectively, are trying to set up a congressional hearing on the resort island of Bermuda where four former Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees known can have a chance to testify and tell their side of the story. 

Delahunt has tried before to draw attention to the plight of the Uighurs, who are Chinese Muslims, who just moved to Bermuda from the prison facility.

Though it's rare for Congress to hold a hearing off U.S. soil -- Bermuda is a British territory -- a Rohrabacher aide noted that under the terms of their transfer the former prisoners cannot travel stateside without special permission. So it's Bermuda or bust. 

"I think this is still kind of in the works," Rohrabacher spokeswoman Tara Setmayer said, adding that Rohrabacher would support the hearing "100 percent." 

This would be the latest in a series of subcommittee hearings on the Uighurs. Last week, Delahunt led a hearing titled, "The Uighurs: A History of Persecution." In a hearing Tuesday, Delahunt explored the nature of the Uighur resistance to the communist Chinese government and the extent of the threat the Uighurs posed. 

Delahunt raised questions about whether the U.S. government relied too heavily on Chinese intelligence in viewing the Uighurs as a threat. A Delahunt aide said Chinese intervention in the Uighurs' detention would be one issue to explore at a Bermuda-based hearing. 

Setmayer said other committee members may focus on their treatment at Guantanamo and the legality of their incarceration after they were cleared by the U.S. government. 

Plus the former detainees could have a chance to answer allegations about terrorism ties. Through a translator, the four men told FOX News last week that didn't know anything about Al Qaeda and just wanted to live in peace. 

Rohrabacher's aide deflected any charges that her boss -- who represents the 46th District in southern California that includes Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa and Long Beach -- or anyone else is just trying to score a free trip to the beach. 

"Given the fact that Congressman Rohrabacher represents one of the most beautiful coastal districts in southern California, I don't think he needs an excuse to go to the beach," she said. 

It's unclear whether the hearing, if held at all, would include members of the full House Foreign Affairs Committee or just the smaller subcommittee. 

The Uighurs have turned into a peculiar kind of celebrity since some of them were finally transferred out of their Cuba detention camp. 

The group was originally picked up while receiving weapons training in Afghanistan in order to fight the Chinese, officials said. Since then, the U.S. government has struggled with how to treat them and where to send them. They were removed from the enemy combatant list but congressional lawmakers and the public did not want them released in the United States

The Obama administration made progress this month, announcing that it would divvy up the 17 remaining Uighurs between Bermuda, where four of them moved last week, and the South Pacific island of Palau

Setmayer joked that it might be more difficult to pull off a hearing in Palau.