By Sandra O'Malley - December 15, 2005
THE Federal Government has cast doubts on David Hicks's ability
to return to Australia if he were to be granted British citizenship
and released from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
The Australian terrorist suspect has been given a possible
pathway to freedom after Britain's High Court directed the UK
government to register Hicks's British citizenship.
The British Home Office is considering whether to take up its
right to appeal the ruling.
Hicks's legal team believes that if Hicks is registered as a
citizen, the British government will remove him from US military
detention, just as it did for nine other Britons once held at
But the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has raised questions
about Hicks's return to Australia if he were to gain his freedom
and renounce Australian citizenship.
"In so far as he's a British citizen, then he would have to make
application to come to Australia if he wished to do so and that's
something we would consider if the circumstances ever arose," he
Despite the court ruling, there is considerable doubt about
Hicks's hopes for freedom.
Even without the appeal issue, with Hicks jailed in Cuba, there
could be logistical difficulties that might prevent him completing
the paperwork he would need to secure British citizenship.
And even if he were to gain citizenship, there is no guarantee
the UK government would seek his release.
Hicks's US military lawyer, Major Michael Mori, remains
"We know that the US and the United Kingdom have an agreement
that any British detainee will not face the military commission and
we see the other nine detainees have all been released and returned
to England and not prosecuted under British law," Major Mori told
Southern Cross Broadcasting.
"I would expect Mr Hicks to receive the same treatment."
Unlike the other British citizens released from Guantanamo Bay,
Hicks is facing charges of conspiracy to commit war crimes,
attempted murder and aiding and abetting the enemy.
The nine other men were never charged.
Mr Downer believes this could be a problem.
"In the case of the nine Britons who were in Guantanamo Bay,
none of those nine was ever charged," he said.
"I doubt very much the Americans would drop charges of
conspiracy to commit war crimes and attempted murder."
While the Australian government might be trying to wash its
hands of the British ruling, critics believe it is a potentially
"It's a matter between David Hicks and his lawyers in the
British courts," Mr Downer said.
"That's really not a matter for Australia."
Prime Minister John Howard said it was up to the British to
decide how they proceed.
"The British will decide what they're going to do themselves,"
Mr Howard said.
Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said the government would look
foolish if Britain came to the aid of Hicks while Canberra let him
languish in Guantanamo Bay. He said the Australian government
should be insisting on a proper trial as the British government had
done with the United States.
Lex Lasry QC, an independent observer to the military commission
process, said he failed to understand why the government had never
taken a stand against Hicks's military trial.
"I've never been able to understand why the Australian
government insists on saying with a straight face that this process
is fair," he told ABC radio.
"The Australian government may yet turn out to look silly
because they have condoned a process that the British government
simply won't condone."