Image: Adil Hakimjan
Yvonne Asell  /  AP file
Adil Hakimjan belongs to a minority group of Turkic-speaking Chinese Muslims called Uighurs. He was released from Guantanamo Bay after the U.S. acknowledged he was not a terrorist.
updated 2/18/2009 5:01:15 PM ET 2009-02-18T22:01:15

A Swedish immigration court granted asylum Wednesday to a Chinese Muslim who was released from Guantanamo Bay after the U.S. acknowledged he was not a terrorist.

The court overruled a decision by the Swedish Migration Board to reject Adil Hakimjan's request for a residence permit.

Hakimjan, who belongs to a minority group of Turkic-speaking Chinese Muslims called Uighurs, fled China in 1999 to avoid persecution. He ended up in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan but was swept up in the U.S.-led dragnet for terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

He and four other Uighurs were released from Guantanamo in 2006 and sent to Albania because it was the only country that would take them. Hakimjan subsequently applied for asylum in Sweden where his sister lives.

The migration board said it would appeal the ruling to a higher court, because it goes against the current practice of rejecting asylum to refugees who have already been granted asylum elsewhere.

"We need guidance on how to handle similar cases in the future," board spokesman Johan Rahm said.

Starting over
The court had argued that Hakimjan's case was unique since he had "more or less been forced" to apply for asylum in Albania.

Hakimjan, who called himself Adel Abdu Al-Hakim in Guantanamo to avoid problems for his family in China, said he was very happy about the court's decision.

"It feels like I am starting again, a rebirth. It is now that I am alive," he told The Associated Press.

Senior Judge Richard Ljungqvist said the ruling was based on Hakimjan's circumstances and doesn't mean other former Guantanamo prisoners will also be granted asylum.

But Hakimjan's lawyer, Sten De Geer, said he hoped it would help lead other European countries to accept former Guantanamo prisoners.

The four other Uighurs who were released with Hakimjan are still living in Albania.

More on: Uighurs

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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