Source : - The Age
January 16, 2007
by Annabel Stafford, Canberra
A conservative Liberal backbencher has demanded that the Government set a deadline for the US Government to charge Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks.
Tasmanian Liberal senator Guy Barnett has added his voice to the chorus of Government backbenchers concerned about the United States' treatment of Hicks, who has now been in detention for five years without trial.
Because he is one of the more cautious and conservative members of the Government, Senator Barnett's concern over Hicks' treatment is an indicator of just how much disquiet the issue is causing within Government ranks.
With the rules for the new military commission that will try Hicks due to be finalised this week, Senator Barnett said it was a good time to set a deadline.
"I can't see any reason why charges shouldn't be laid," he said.
Australia should request "an imposition of a deadline on the US authority … that he be charged within (a certain) time frame — and I'm talking weeks".
"Five years is already too long to have somebody in jail without being tried, and we must do everything within our power to ensure swift legal action and Mr Hicks' day in court."
The Age believes Senator Barnett has met Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and expressed his concerns on more than one occasion.
A spokesman for Mr Ruddock said yesterday that "all the regulations for setting up the commission are to be finalised this week and we've had assurances (from the US) that charges will follow soon after".
Mr Ruddock said last week that the Government would ask for the time that Hicks has already spent in detention to be taken off any prison sentence he receives.