A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the release of several Chinese Muslim detainees from Guantanamo Bay into the United States.
The men all are ethnic Uighurs and come from a region of China that borders Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Chinese government considers them terrorists and the U.S. has refused to return them to their home country due to fears they will be persecuted.
The men were detained by the U.S. since their capture in 2001. In 2004, their status as enemy combatants was changed and they were cleared for release.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina said the continued detention of the men was unconstitutional unless they were charged with a crime. Judge Urbina was appointed to the federal bench in 1994 by President Clinton.
The attorneys for the group wanted them released into the Washington D.C. area, where there is a small Uighur community, according to the Washington Post.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said the detainees are suspected of being members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, according to the Associated Press.
"China has urged the U.S. to repatriate these Chinese terrorist suspects to China on many occasions. We hope the U.S. will take our position seriously and repatriate these persons to China sooner rather than later," he said.