The Australian government has urged the United States to find a quick alternative to the military tribunals set up to try terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the tribunals are illegal. Now lawyers for the only Australian being held at Guantanamo, say they are hopeful the ruling will see him set free.
Australia has a vested interest in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the military tribunals were illegal under both U.S. and international law.
One of the inmates in Guantanamo is 31-year-old Australian David Hicks, who has been charged with terrorist offenses.
Prime Minister John Howard, a strong ally of President Bush in the war on terror, has not pushed the Bush Administration to free Hicks or send him back to Australia. Mr. Howard has said that if Hicks were sent home he would have to be set free, because he had not broken any Australian law.
The Supreme Court ruling dealt only with the military tribunals Mr. Bush had set up to deal with Guantanamo Bay detainees. The ruling does not require that the detainees be freed. However, in the wake of the ruling, Hicks' Australian lawyer, David Mcloud, is urging the government in Canberra to seek his client's repatriation.
"The Prime Minister of this country is revered by most of the Australian public," said Mcloud. "He's a man of compassion and reason and I think now he will agree that this no longer passes the common sense test and I would call upon him to take this opportunity to review his position and that of his government."
Hicks is a Muslim convert who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for four-and-a-half years. He was to have been one of the first Guantanmo detainees to face the now banned military commissions.
The former kangaroo hunter was captured in Afghanistan in December 2001, where he had allegedly trained in al-Qaida camps and fought alongside the Taleban regime.
Hicks has denied charges of conspiracy to commit war crimes, attempted murder and aiding the enemy.