Uncertainty shrouds 17 unusual Guantanamo detainees

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — At Camp Iguana, 17 Muslims from China taken captive in Afghanistan seven years ago now get Pepsi, Ping Pong and a 42-inch plasma screen for sports and religious videos.

They asked for a live sheep recently to celebrate Islam's holy Eid al Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, and were rebuffed — even before commanders realized they would need a super-sharp knife to slaughter it. They asked to watch some soccer matches and got hours of World Cup and other highlights.

What they can't get is an answer to the question of when they might leave this place, ordered by a judge in October, and what nation might grant them asylum.

''They're very compliant — with everything. Very understanding. And patient, actually,'' said a Navy chief petty officer who oversees guards at the barbed-wire-ringed camp.

While Defense Secretary Robert Gates has staffers in Washington writing plans to close the prison camps, the saga of these 17 men called Uighurs (pronounced Wee-ghurs) shows what the architects of any new detention policy are up against.

Gates wants Congress to write legislation to block former terror suspects here from asylum on U.S. shores.

But that's precisely the remedy of lawyers who have for years helped these men sue for their freedom. Because they are from a Muslim minority in China, all sides agree that sending them back would doom them to religious persecution, perhaps torture, in their communist homeland.

Uighurville, as it is known, is the latest Guantanamo lab in the U.S. experiment in offshore military detention.

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