China Demands Return of Guantanamo Detainees བོད་སྐད།

China has issued fresh demands that the United States hand over 17 Chinese Muslims being held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Speaking with reporters Thursday in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the detainees must face the "sanction of the law" in China.

Qin says the 17 men are members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a group the United Nations lists as a terrorist organization.

U.S. officials fear the detainees could be tortured if they are turned over to China and have sought their release to a third country, so far unsucessfully.

Qin denies the men will be tortured, saying such practices violate Chinese law.

The Bush administration and U.S. courts are in a tug-of-war over whether the men - who are all from the ethnic Uighur group in northwestern China - should be released into the United States.

The U.S. military no longer considers the men to be "enemy combatants."

Earlier this week, a U.S. court ordered the men be brought to Washington as soon as Friday to begin proceedings that would have freed them into the United States and ended their stay at Guantanamo.

A federal appeals court, however, temporarily blocked their release following a request by the Bush administration.

The White House says their release to the U.S. violates immigration laws.

Lawyers for the Uighurs have argued that granting the stay would prolong the imprisonment of the Uighurs by months and perhaps years. The U.S. government cleared the Uighurs for release in 2004.

In 2006, the U.S. released five Uighurs from Guantanamo and resettled them in Albania. China demanded Albania return them to the Asian nation. Albania did not comply.