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June 11, 2009

Bermuda in hot water with Mom over Uighurs

As in Mother England. Thursday morning, Bermuda's premier, Ewart Brown, made the surprising announcement that four Uighur detainees from the American prison camp at Guantanamo had been resettled in the tourist mecca in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

The problem, reports Bermuda's only newspaper, the Royal Gazette, is that Brown forgot to tell the island's governor, the royally appointed official who is London's authority on the island. Bermuda isn't really an independent state, but a self-governoring overseas territory of the United Kingdom. And while Bermudans are at pains to point out that they approve their own laws and UK laws don't apply, the UK is supposed to decide Bermuda's foreign policy.

Which is why the island's governor, Sir Richard Gozney, thinks he should have been told before Bermuda agreed to take in the Uighurs, who'd been ordered freed last year by a U.S. district court judge and had grown tired of Guantanamo.

"The Government of Bermuda should have consulted with us because it carries with it foreign policy ground areas and security issues," Gozney is quoted as saying in the Gazette.

Brown disagrees, telling CNN Thursday afternoon that the matter is strictly an immigration one, which falls within local Bermuda officials' authority. He called the decision a "humanitarian one."

Brown acknowledged that he let Gozney know what was going on "rather late" -- apparently after the four Uighurs were already aboard a chartered flight from Guantanamo.

Why exactly wasn't clear. Brown told the Gazette the Uighur asylum had been in the works for a month.

As for the Obama administration, it expressed gratitude for the Bermudan hospitality and didn't address the issue of whether maybe some kind of headsup was owed to London.

And the Uighurs, who've been in Guantanamo for seven years? Their mental health appears fine, reports the Gazette, and they could barely contain their enthusiasm for moving to Bermuda during the flight from Guantanamo.

Still awaited is word that the 13 remaining Guantanamo Uighurs have made it to the Pacific island of Palau, which announced Wednesday it was taking all 17.

Apparently, no headsup for Palau, either.


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