Paul J. Richards / AFP - Getty Images, file
A detainee wears restraints as he reads during a class at Guantanamo Bay in March 2010.
By Jim Miklaszewski and Alexander Smith, NBC News
Three Guantanamo Bay detainees have been sent to Slovakia where they are "voluntarily resettling," officials said Tuesday.
Yusef Abbas, 33, Saidullah Khalik, 37, and Hajiakbar Abdul Ghuper, 39, are the final ethnic Uighur Chinese nationals to be transferred out of the facility in Cuba.
The Slovakian government said the men it accepted had "never been suspected nor accused of terrorism," the BBC reported. The country, which is a member of the European Union and NATO, also took in three Guantanamo inmates in 2010.
"The United States is grateful to the government of Slovakia for this humanitarian gesture and its willingness to support U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," the Defense Department said in a statement. "The United States coordinated with the government of Slovakia to ensure the transfer took place in accordance with appropriate security and humane treatment measures."
Uighurs are Muslim inhabitants of the Xinjiang region in northwestern China. China has previously blamed violence in Xinjiang on Islamist militants plotting holy war.
John Moore / Getty Images
President Obama's one-year deadline to close the facility has long passed as shutting it down has proven complicated and controversial.
The Defense Department told a court in 2008 that it would "serve no useful purpose" to try to prove that 17 Uighurs who were being held in Guantanamo in 2008 were enemy combatants.
In Oct. 2008, a federal judge ordered the release of the men, but the decision was stayed by a federal appeals court after the government intervened. They had been in legal limbo since.
Emi MacLean, staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, in 2009 called for the end of the detention of the 17 Uighurs. She said: "The U.S. government has acknowledged that these 17 men are wrongly imprisoned and have nowhere safe to go. Seven years is too long for such a grand mistake to go without a remedy."
The transfer leaves 155 detainees still in custody at Guantanamo Bay.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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This story was originally published on Tue Dec 31, 2013 10:18 AM EST