Source: The News Online,10117,18188950-421,00.html

February 18, 2006

DAVID Hicks' Australian lawyer has said Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has agreed to raise his client's case at the next cabinet meeting.

David McLeod said on ABC Radio's AM program that Mr Downer had agreed to take the matter to cabinet after being presented with new information at a meeting late yesterday.

A spokesman for Mr Downer confirmed a meeting had taken place but said the Australian government had not changed its position on the case and would like to see Hicks face justice through the US as soon as possible.

"He faces very serious charges," the spokesman said.

"Our position hasn't changed ... We'd like to see him face justice in the United States as soon as possible."

But Mr McLeod described the minister's promise to take the matter to Cabinet as a breakthrough.

He said the United Nations human rights commission report released yesterday, which called for the detention centre to be closed, along with the increasing number of detainees being released from Guantanamo Bay without trial, was reason enough for the Australian Government to reconsider Hicks' case.

"All of these various facts (which) have come to light in recent times, ... should give the Australian Government cause to reflect on David's situation and what they should be doing for him," Mr McLeod said.

"There appears to be only one rational conclusion that you can draw as to why David is still there while all these other (Guantanamo Bay detainees) have been released, and that appears to be the policy of ... the Australian Government as to how to it wants to deal with David.

"I want to impress upon Mr Downer the importance of making robust representations to the Americans because I believe if the Australian government did make robust representations, that David would be released back to Australia."

Mr McLeod said that Hicks had served four years and two months in detention without trial.

"That is equivalent of a head sentence under a US court martial system of 12 and a half years," he said.

"If he had been sentenced when he was first picked up to 12 and a half years he would be free on parole at this stage."

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