On course: Lawyer Sabin Willett said the settlement in Bermuda of the Uyghurs, pictured at work at Port Royal Golf Course, is seen as a huge success internationally. “More and more Bermudians have met them, in their workplace, in the soccer club, around the island. It is going marvellously well for all concerned.” *Photo by James Whittaker
On course: Lawyer Sabin Willett said the settlement in Bermuda of the Uyghurs, pictured at work at Port Royal Golf Course, is seen as a huge success internationally. “More and more Bermudians have met them, in their workplace, in the soccer club, around the island. It is going marvellously well for all concerned.” *Photo by James Whittaker
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The relocation of four Guantanamo Bay prisoners to Bermuda has been a major success that could become the model for closing the controversial terror camp.

Lawyer Sabin Willett, who negotiated the move for the four Uyghur men, said the Bermuda Police Service's 'risk assessment' report was further evidence that the group were of no threat to the public.

He said the report's conclusion, which determined the four men as a 'moderate threat', was just 'politics' and insisted that the substance of last week's ruling supported similar assessments in the U.S. which had deemed the men to be no threat to the public.

He said if there were any real concerns about the four, then restrictions would have been imposed on their liberty.

Mr Willett added that despite local opposition - culminating in a series of angry protests demanding Premier Dr Brown's resignation this summer - the resettlement of the men was being viewed internationally as a major success story.

And though he does not think Bermuda could or should take anymore Guantanamo refugees, he believes the Bermuda deal could become the template for closing the unpopular detention camp.

Hysteria

"The general view abroad is that the U.S. got itself tied up in hysteria over freeing Guantanamo prisoners, even those taken by mistake; the Bermuda government saw a need and an ability to offer humanitarian aid; the project has worked smashingly well; and the U.S. now looks silly."

He said the 'moderate threat' assessment by Bermuda Police Service had not altered that perception.

"The commissioner did a thorough review of background materials and concluded that there are "no specific" concerns. He has not imposed any special measures, monitoring, or limitations on liberty. If he had any concern about public safety, he would have taken action.

"The rest is politics. Britain's foreign office remains upset with the U.S. government for not being consulted in advance of the Uyghurs' arrival in Bermuda. Given that situation, the commissioner had to be measured in his characterization of the situation.

"It has now been more than three months since the Uyghurs arrived. More and more Bermudians have met them, in their workplace, in the soccer club, around the island. It is really going marvellously well for all concerned.

"On the day they arrived Premier Brown said, 'This too shall pass.' How right he was!"

Mr. Willett added that the 'politics of fear' was still preventing other innocent men from being released from Guantanamo into the U.S.

He said, in that context, the model of resettling prisoners to small countries who did not have as big a stake in international politics, could provide a blueprint for the best way to close Guantanamo.

"We now have the spectacle of equally innocent prisoners about to be resettled in Palau, a small island nation not nearly as prosperous as Bermuda."

Currently 13 Uyghurs, captured in Pakistan along with the Bermuda four after the U.S. assault in the Tora Bora mountains which followed September 11, are still imprisoned at Guantanamo.

That group, including the Bermuda four, were cleared for release after tribunals established they were not 'enemy combatants'. In October last year a judge ordered that they be released on U.S. soil. But the ruling caused a political firestorm and was overturned. If countries are not found to accept the remaining Uyghurs - who can't return to their native China for fear of persecution - that decision could be challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court next month.

Mr Willett said it was 'politics' rather than any genuine threat that had prevented the Uyghurs from being released on U.S. soil.

"How is it that these people are safe in the civilian populations of our friends and allies, but the U.S. won't do the decent thing and resettle them itself? Unfortunately, a politics of fear still pervades the U.S."

PLP Senator Walton Brown, who backed the decision to accept the Uyghurs, said Bermuda's action had proved to be a humanitarian gesture with no downside.

He said the threat assessment conducted by the Bermuda Police Service concurred with the verdict of two U.S. administrations that the men were innocent.

"There is no evidence to say these men are any threat at all. The term (moderate threat) has no practical meaning...

"It's not a helpful phrase... but when you read the actual report, there is no threat.

"The report validates what the Americans had already said... it would have been quite an unusual step for the Bermuda authorities to have concluded that there was a threat when the Americans has already concluded that there was none."

He added that the Uyghurs should now be eligible for travel documents - either through the UN or Bermuda authorities - allowing them to come and go as they please.