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02/14/2013

Guantanamo Uighur update

Adel-Noori
Former Guantanamo detainee, Adel Noori, one of six detainees settled in Palua. Photo courtesy: "Witness to Guantanamo Project"

Palau's local paper, the Tia Belau, reported this week that one of the six Uighur detainees sent to the small impoverished Pacific island has "disappeared," likely finding refuge elsewhere. Adel Noori, 42, worked as a security guard at the local community centre and is married with a newborn. His wife is reportedly in Turkey where he is believed to have fled. The details of the story were confirmed to the Toronto Star by sources in the U.S. and Palau.

While the Obama administration is continuing negotiations to find a permanent home for the former detainees - whose incarceration was ruled illegal by a U.S. court in 2008 - American officials were not involved in Noori's departure.

Rhinehart Silas, the deputy chief of staff to Palau's president, confirmed in a telephone interview with the Associated Press Thursday that the government was investigating his whereabouts. Noori, like the other Uighur refugees, do not have passports or other travel documents.

This is our feature story concerning the plight of the men in Palau.

Last year, we reported on the six detainees who was settled in Albania. One of the men, Abu Bakker Qassim, is now a popular pizza chef.

Finding homes for the 22 Uighurs from Guantanamo has been difficult due to opposition from China. The men, all Uighurs, an ethnic Muslim minority from western China , could not be sent to their homeland due to concerns that they would be tortured or killed. Here's a feature from our former Beijing correspondent Bill Schiller about a 2009 clash between Han Chinese and Uighurs, which explains the deep-rooted ethnic strife.

Aside from Palau and Albania, the men from Guantanamo have been sent to Bermuda, Switzerland and El Salvador thanks to diplomatically creative deals negotiated the U.S. State Department. Three remain detained in Guantanamo.

 Michelle Shephard is the Toronto Star's National Security correspondent and author of "Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone." She is a three-time recepient of Canada's National Newspaper Award. Follow her on Twitter @shephardm


 

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