Source: The Australian,20867,21041131-601,00.html

by Pia Akerman and Samantha Maiden

January 11, 2007

DAVID Hicks would be returned to Australia on bail and placed under a control order while he awaits trial under a Labor plan that represents the party's strongest stance yet on the Australian terror suspect.

With the fifth anniversary of Hicks's incarceration at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba tomorrow, Opposition legal affairs spokesman Kelvin Thomson called on the Government to demand Hicks's return to Australia under strict conditions.

"It is time that he was released from Guantanamo Bay," Mr Thomson said in Adelaide, Hicks's hometown. "The Government claims that it has been doing all it can, but the truth is otherwise ... the Australian Government can play its part in terms of the control order.

"It's time for the Australian Government to look the United States Government in the eye and say, 'This is long enough: David Hicks must be released on bail and the Australian Government stands ready to assist in monitoring his movements should he return to Australia'."

Hicks, 31, has been detained by the US at its naval base in Cuba since January 2002, a month after he was captured with Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

At a military commission hearing in August 2004 he pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, aiding the enemy and attempted murder.

But those charges were dropped when the US Supreme Court ruled last June the military commissions set up to try Hicks and other Guantanamo Bay detainees were unlawful. Mr Thomson also called on the federal Government to oppose the new US military commissions because they did not represent a "fair trial".

"This is not an independent or impartial jury or trial process," he said. "The military commissions allow for hearsay evidence to be included, they don't exclude evidence obtained by coercion, they don't allow the accused to be necessarily present for the whole of the trial to hear all of the evidence against them.

"These are things which violate the Geneva conventions and the Australian criminal code."

The Law Council of Australia also accused the Howard Government of offering a "blind defence" of the US's new military commission process.

The formal procedures for the military commission are to be proclaimed by January 17. Hicks's Adelaide-based lawyer David McLeod said he expected US authorities would ensure they met the deadline to avoid being forced to return to the US Congress, which is now controlled by the Democrats. But he predicted challenges to the legality of the new commissions could drag out Hicks's case for a further two years.

Labor's demand for Hicks's release on bail came as a lawyer representing several detainees at Guantanamo said the prisoners continued to be subjected to violence and extreme isolation, though abuse had become more subtle than three years ago.

Gita Gutierrez, of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, said most prisoners were housed in constantly lit isolation cells and subjected to alternating extreme cold and heat.

Additional reporting: AFP

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