Accessibility links

Australia: No Plans to Charge Freed Guantanamo Bay Detainee

  • Phil Mercer

Australia says it is not likely to take legal action against one of its citizens who is being released from the U.S. military detention in Guantanamo Bay. This, despite having strong suspicions that Mamdouh Habib - a former Sydney taxi driver - has terrorist connections.

Mamdouh Habib will return to Australia a free man. He will, however, be closely monitored by police and intelligence services.

Mr. Habib - and Egyptian-born Australian citizen - is being released without charge after three years in U.S. military custody in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Pentagon recently estimated that only about a quarter of the suspected terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay have any intelligence value.

The Australian government remains convinced that Mr. Habib is not entirely innocent.

Australia's Attorney General Philip Ruddock says Mr. Habib remains a security interest, as there are real suspicions he trained with the al-Qaida terrorist network and knew of the attacks in New York and Washington in 2001.

"It remains the strong view of the United States that, based on information available to it, Mr. Habib had prior knowledge of the terrorist attacks on or before September 11, 2001," he said.

As part of his release, Canberra has accepted responsibility for preventing Mr. Habib from engaging in any terrorist activities in the future.

Mamdouh Habib was arrested in Pakistan in 2001, accused of training with al-Qaida. New counter-terrorism laws were introduced in Australia the following year. They're not retroactive and cannot be used to prosecute the former taxi driver.

Mr. Habib was taken to Guantanamo Bay in 2002, where's been held ever since.

His lawyer, Stephen Hopper, says the allegations against Mr. Habib are "ridiculous" and lack evidence.

Mr. Habib's wife, Maha, welcomes her husband's release after four tough years for her and their four children.

"The thing is I'm really, really upset and fed up because everyone kept saying 'terror suspect,'" she said. "And I've said that from the beginning that my husband was an innocent person and thank God's given me this chance to prove that my husband is innocent."

It is not yet clear when Mamdouh Habib will return to Sydney.

A second Australian being held in Guantanamo Bay is expected to face a military tribunal sometime this year. David Hicks, a former kangaroo hunter, has been accused of conspiracy to commit war crimes, attempted murder and helping the enemy.

American officials have insisted that he fought alongside al-Qaida-allied Taleban forces in Afghanistan. It is alleged he fired on U.S. and coalition troops during their invasion in late 2001.

XS
SM
MD
LG