Source : - ABC News Online

April 13, 2006

The Federal Government says it will not prevent terrorism suspect David Hicks from returning to Australia, if he is granted British citizenship and released from Guantanamo Bay.

Overnight, the British High Court ruled against an appeal by the British Government aimed at preventing Hicks from becoming a British citizen even though his mother was a British citizen.

Hicks's lawyers hope that UK citizenship would entitle their client to the same lobbying that saw nine Britons released from Guantanamo.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock says if Hicks is freed, the Federal Government will not stand in the way of his return to Australia.

"If he is no longer held by the United States he has an entitlement to return to Australia," he said.

"I mean that's a matter of international law, we can't deny our own citizens access to Australia."

But Mr Ruddock says he is unsure if Hicks still has a valid Australian passport.

"The question is, if he is an Australian, does he travel on an Australian passport," he said.

"I don't know if he has a passport that is valid now - [it] may well have expired, but the question of whether you actually have a document is not relevant, the entitlement nevertheless remains."

Appeal possible

The British Government has indicated it is preparing to ask the Law Lords to consider the case despite the failure of its appeal.

If the Lords hear the case, legal wrangling could take until the end of the year.

The British Government had argued that Hicks's alleged co-operation with Taliban forces constituted disloyalty, which should bar him from British citizenship.

But the three judges from the Court of Appeal ruled any action before an application for citizenship is irrelevant.

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