US embassy cable - 06TIRANA461

UIGHURS ARRIVE IN ALBANIA FROM GUANTANAMO WITHOUT INCIDENT

Identifier: 06TIRANA461
Wikileaks: View 06TIRANA461 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tirana
Created: 2006-05-08 11:55:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: PREF PTER PHUM PREL AL CH
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXYZ0010
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTI #0461/01 1281155
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 081155Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY TIRANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4225
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING IMMEDIATE 0070
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1124
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1183
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1074
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 0057
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0267
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 5253
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0889
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0682
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 3254
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFNPKB/COMUSNAVEUR NAPLES IT
RUFNPKB/COMUSNAVEUR POLAD NAPLES IT
RHHMUNA/HQS USPACOM HONOLULU HI
S E C R E T TIRANA 000461 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/SCE (BENEDICT, SAINZ, ENGLISH), S/WCI 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/08/2021 
TAGS: PREF, PTER, PHUM, PREL, AL, CH 
SUBJECT: UIGHURS ARRIVE IN ALBANIA FROM GUANTANAMO WITHOUT 
INCIDENT 
 
REF: BEIJING 8334 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Marcie B. Ries, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (S) On May 5, at 9:03 PM local time, five Chinese-national 
Uighurs previously held at Guantanamo Bay who had been 
determined to no longer be enemy combatants arrived by C-17 
at Mother Teresa International Airport in Tirana.  The five 
Uighurs were driven to Rinas police station (near the 
airport), where a senior Minister of Interior official 
oversaw the processing of their entry documents and asylum 
claim forms.  The Uighurs were then driven to the National 
Accommodation Center for Asylum Seekers, in Babrru, near 
Tirana, run by the Ministry of Interior in conjunction with 
the UNHCR.  All events went smoothly and according to plan. 
The Uighurs were generally cooperative and appeared 
satisfied, if somewhat confused, about being in Albania. 
Government of Albania cooperation throughout was excellent. 
 
2. (C) Sabin Willett, the US attorney for two of the five 
Uighurs, who had been pursuing a civil action in a 
Washington, DC District Court seeking their release from 
Guantanamo, arrived in Albania May 7.  Shortly afterward, 
Willett contacted Post, and spoke to DCM via telephone. 
Willett said he was in Albania to check on the Uighurs' 
condition and their treatment.  He indicated that he was 
generally pleased that the GoA had accepted the Uighurs, but 
intended see them personally and speak to GoA officials 
before completing his assessment.  Willett said he held hope 
that some of the remaining Uighurs now in Guantanamo might 
also be released in Albania.  According to Willett, head of 
the Uighur association in the US, Nury Turkel, hoped to 
arrive in Tirana on May 9.  (Note: We understand Turkel's 
travel may be more complicated because he has no passport -- 
he renounced his original Chinese citizenship, and now has a 
US Green Card, but not US citizenship.  End Note.) 
 
3. (C) DCM offered Willett assistance in connecting with GoA 
officials to arrange a meeting with the Uighurs, which 
Willett accepted.  DCM arranged to follow up with Willett the 
morning of May 8.  Nonetheless, Willett did not wait and went 
to the Center seeking to see the Uighurs the evening of May 
7, but was turned away by an official who did not know he was 
coming. 
 
4, (C) In a meeting with the Ambassador May 8, Minister of 
Interior Olldashi said he had met Willett on Sunday and 
personally arranged for him to visit the refugee center later 
on May 8.  Willett arrived at the center around noon and left 
with all five Uighurs for lunch outside, followed by a swarm 
of TV reporters.  As of this writing (14:00 local time) 
neither Willett nor the Uighurs have made any statement to 
the press, although we believe some statement, particularly 
from Willett, is likely. 
 
5. (SBU) Press reporting on May 6 of the Uighurs' arrival was 
generally straightforward and factual, with some discussion 
of the humanitarian angle.  On May 7, Gazeta Shqiptare picked 
up a story of Italian news agency ANSA which quoted an "Asian 
diplomat" in Tirana as saying "It is like Albania gave 
political asylum to five Taliban.  What would Washington say 
in that case?"  Gazeta Shqiptare commented, "There is no 
doubt we are a friend of the U.S., but we risk spoiling our 
relations with China, an important UNSC member."  One May 7 
editorial by a sensationalistic journalist said that although 
siding with the US on a number of political and military 
issues was appropriate, it is now time for Albania to 
establish some "limits and standards" in pursuing Albanian 
national objectives.  The editorial claimed that the Uighurs 
brought here were at the top of the global terror network, 
 
and bringing them to Albania put the country at unnecessary 
risk, and could create a crisis with China. 
 
6. (C) Comment: So far, things have gone well with the Uighur 
resettlement here, and the GoA seems satisfied with 
developments.  The Albanian press, which almost never 
criticizes the US, has run several stories questioning 
whether Albania's acceptance of the Uighurs is really in the 
country's interest, and expressing particular concern about 
the impact this might have on relations with China.  The 
story has been receding from the headlines. 
 
7. (C) Comment (cont'd): There has been no known Chinese 
reaction here so far, apart from the hazy reported remarks 
above attributed to an Asian diplomat.  Given Chinese concern 
about the Uighur issue (reftel), some response is likely. 
The Albanian Foreign Minister told Ambassador that the only 
concern that the GoA had regarding China was that China might 
retaliate by vetoing UN action granting Kosovo (90% of the 
population of which is ethnic Albanian) its independence. 
 
8. (U) On May 5 at 22:15, immediately upon completion of the 
Uighurs' document, the Albanian MFA released the following 
statement: 
 
BEGIN TEXT OF MFA STATEMENT 
 
Today, on May 5, 2006, five Chinese citizens entered the 
territory of the Republic of Albania and applied for asylum 
in Albania. 
 
Albanian authorities, in compliance with Article 40 of the 
Constitution of the Republic of Albania, with the Geneva 
Convention "On Refugee Status" of 1951 and the New York 
Protocol of 1976, as well as the Law No. 8432 of 14.12.1998, 
"On Asylum in the Republic of Albania," accepted the 
application of the asylum seekers and will continue with the 
relevant legal procedures regarding applications for asylum. 
 
END TEXT OF MFA STATEMENT 
 
ZATE 

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