updated 4/6/2009 6:48:36 PM ET 2009-04-06T22:48:36

Chinese Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay asked the Supreme Court on Monday to order their release into the United States.

In court papers, a group of Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gurz) says the high court should overrule a federal appeals panel in Washington, which has blocked the release of the Uighurs.

A federal judge determined in October that the Uighurs should be freed because the Pentagon no longer considered them enemy combatants. U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina said they should be allowed into this country because the administration could find no other country willing to accept them.

The Uighurs argued that last year's Supreme Court ruling that granted Guantanamo detainees the right to go to federal court to seek their freedom is meaningless if they can continue to be held.

"The US government has acknowledged that these 17 men are wrongly imprisoned at Guantanamo and have nowhere safe to go," said Emi MacLean, staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. "If President Obama is truly committed to closing Guantanamo, these men should be on a plane to restart their lives in the United States."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said Urbina had gone too far in ordering the men released into the United States.

The three-judge appeals panel suggested the detainees might be able to seek entry by applying to the Homeland Security Department, which administers U.S. immigration laws. But the court bluntly concluded that the detainees otherwise had no constitutional right to immediate freedom after being held in custody at Guantanamo without charges for nearly seven years.

Uighurs are from Xinjiang, an isolated region that borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and six Central Asian nations. They are Turkic-speaking Muslims who say they have long been repressed by the Chinese government. China has said that insurgents are leading an Islamic separatist movement in Xinjiang. The Uighur detainees were captured in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2001.

Albania accepted five Uighur detainees in 2006 but since has balked at taking others, partly for fear of diplomatic repercussions from China.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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