IN OTHER WORDS: Power punch

A federal judge in Washington has struck an important blow for the rule of law by ordering that 17 detainees be freed from Guantánamo Bay. But the Bush administration is fighting the ruling to avoid having the case become an open window into the outlaw world of President Bush’s detention camps. The detainees are members of the Uighur Muslim minority of China, which is violently oppressed by the Beijing government. They were swept up in Pakistan after the US invasion of Afghanistan and thrown into indefinite detention as “illegal enemy combatants.”

They are not enemy combatants, legal or illegal, nor are they terrorists. Their detention has gravely injured the nation’s tradition of due process and its international standing. The Bush administration admitted long ago that the 17 Uighur detainees were not a threat to this country, but it would not allow them into the US. Instead, Washington began asking other countries, mostly in Europe, to give the detainees asylum from China, which was demanding their return.

The government’s counterproposal — if the Uighurs cannot go somewhere else, they should stay at Guantánamo — is more absurd than its other arguments. The administration is not afraid the Uighurs will take to streets against the US. It is afraid they will take to the microphones.