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German politicians split on Guantanamo detainee request

av/pfd, AFP/ReutersMay 6, 2009

Now that the US request for Germany to accept as many as 17 Uighur detainees from Guantanamo Bay is official, reaction from across the political spetrum has been mixed.

Guantanamo inmates in jumpsuits
Talks about what to do with the Guantanamo Uighurs are ongoingImage: dpa

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Germany has an obligation to help US President Barack Obama in his efforts to close the American military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But reservations about accepting former detainees have been expressed, even from within her own Christian Democratic Union party.

Lower Saxony Interior Minister Uwe Schuenemann (CDU) told Die Welt newspaper that "security must come before diplomacy."

Dissent within CDU

Members of the CDU's Bavaria-based sister party, the Christian Social Union, have also voiced concerns. Senior CSU politician Peter Ramsauer said on Tuesday in Berlin that Germany is neither politically nor legally bound to take in the prisoners. "We are not ready to either help or support the government on this issue," he said.

On Tuesday, Saxony-Anhalt Interior Minister Holger Hoevelman from the CDU's coalition partners, the Social Democrats, told the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper that the detainees were an American problem. He had "no interest in adding a potential risk to the country by taking in the prisoners," he said.

Munich, Bavaria at odds

In support of the resettlement efforts, German government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm noted that Munich would be the appropriate location to resettle the prisoners as there is a large Uighur community there, and that the city council had voted to accept the Uighurs back in February.

In contrast, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) said on Monday that his state would not offer to welcome the detainees.

The Uighurs are a Chinese Muslim minority from the remote northwestern province of Xinjiang. The Obama administration says that the Uighurs cannot return to China because they risk persecution as the Chinese government regards them as terrorists.

The US government has classified the Uighurs as not posing a security threat.