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Australian Terrorist Suspect David Hicks Wins U.K. Citizenship

Australia's David Hicks poses with his daughter in this undated handout photo released December 13, 2005. Hicks, a detainee being held at Guantanamo Bay, won a legal battle on Tuesday against Britain's failure to grant him UK citizenship.
Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- David Hicks, an Australian terrorist suspect held by the U.S. at its base in Guantanamo Bay, won a legal battle in the U.K. to be registered as a British citizen, his father Terry said.

Hicks, captured in Afghanistan in December 2001, went before Justice Collins at the U.K. Court of Appeals in London yesterday, according to the British court's Web site. Hicks won the case and may now call on British officials to lobby for his release from Guantanamo, his father said.

``This is the start of a very long battle and nothing's certain in terms of when or if he will be released from Guantanamo Bay,'' Terry Hicks said in Adelaide, South Australia state. ``If he is treated in the same fashion as the other British citizens, then the outlook is pretty positive.''

Hicks, 30, faces charges of conspiracy to commit attacks on civilians and civilian targets, attempted murder and aiding the enemy. The last four of nine Britons held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba was returned to the U.K. on Jan. 25 and all have been released. About 520 prisoners from 40 countries are being held by the U.S. at Guantanamo.

Hicks' lawyer, Stephen Grosz, said the U.K. judge ruled a passport should be issued as soon as possible. Britain's Home Office may appeal yesterday's decision.

``This is a big step forward for us and for David, that the British government can start making representations on David's behalf,'' Grosz said in an interview in Adelaide. ``We hope the Home Secretary decides not to appeal the judgment, which is clear and concise.''

Hicks is due to stand trial before a U.S. military tribunal.

Govt should feel embarrassed over Hicks: lawyer
PM - Wednesday, 14 Decemberm - Reporter: Catherine McGrath


Australian lawyer Stephen Grosz representing Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks speaks to the media as he leaves The High Court in London Tuesday Dec. 13, 2005. Hicks held at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay won a court battle Tuesday to be registered as a British citizen a step he hopes will secure his release. (AP Photo/Paul Ashby)

MARK COLVIN: David Hicks remains in United States custody at Guantanamo Bay tonight, despite the British High Court decision that he's a UK citizen. And John Howard has made it clear that he's got no problem with that.

Speaking from Malaysia, the Prime Minister says it's up to the British to decide if they will give David Hicks a UK passport.

He's emphasised that Australia believes there's evidence that Hicks trained with al-Qaeda and should face the US military commission trial.

But Hicks' Australian lawyer says the UK High Court judgement is clear – that David Hicks should be granted British citizenship and then treated the same as the nine other British detainees in Guantanamo Bay who were released.

And another Australian lawyer, who observed David Hicks' initial military commission hearing in Guantanamo Bay, says the Australian Government should feel embarrassed because it's been prepared to condone an unfair and unjust process.

Chief Political Correspondent Catherine McGrath.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: For the Hicks team, the UK decision is the best news they've had.

The British courts have found that David Hicks is entitled to a British passport. The next question is will the British Home Office appeal?

Nevertheless, the position of the Australian Government remains unchanged. It believes that David Hicks should face the US military commission.

The Prime Minister spoke this afternoon from Malaysia.

JOHN HOWARD: Our view of Mr Hicks has not changed. The evidence is that he trained with al-Qaeda, and after the terrorist attack on the 11th of September, he returned to Afghanistan.

Our view has not altered. He cannot be tried in Australia for that behaviour because that behaviour did not represent a criminal offence under the laws of Australia at the time.

We remain of the view that we had before this decision, and the decision has not altered our view.

As to what the British Government does, is a matter for the British Government.

REPORTER 1: Are you making… is your Government making representations to the British to revoke the citizenship?

JOHN HOWARD: No, the British will decide what they're going to do themselves.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: And Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is indicating the US authorities want the military commission to go ahead.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: I doubt very much the Americans would drop charges of conspiracy to commit war crimes and attempted murder. I doubt very much that they would take such a lax view of such serious charges that they would just drop the charges. I doubt that very much.

But…

REPORTER 2: Can you see restrictions from him coming back to Australia?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, if he, insofar 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 could consider in the circumstances… if the circumstances ever arose.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: But while the Australians continue to back the US military commission, the British Government doesn't support it and never has. And that was emphasised in the High Court judgement overnight by Justice Collins, who stated:

JUSTICE COLLINS (read by actor): It is clear that English law regards the detention and proposed trial of the claimant to be contrary to the rule of law. It's equally clear from its statements and actions that the British Government is of the same opinion. This is why it has negotiated the release of the nine British subjects.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: And Justice Collins said of David Hicks:

JUSTICE COLLINS (read by actor): Once he is a British citizen, he should be entitled to all assistance which can be given to a British citizen.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: Adelaide-based lawyer for David Hicks, David McLeod, this is a turning point.

DAVID MCLEOD: What we've got to do is now to apply as much pressure as possible to the US and the UK governments to honour the previous arrangement that they had with the other nine.

But what's most important from the judgement that's been handed down isn't so much the grant of citizenship but the observations and criticisms that the High Court judge makes regarding both the detention and the military commission process.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: David McLeod says that from a legal point of view it isn't relevant that David Hicks didn't live in the United Kingdom.

DAVID MCLEOD: We would say that absolutely nothing is changed except for the fact that David has now acquired UK citizenship. The same principles as espoused by the British Attorney-General and the British Minister for Foreign Affairs – namely, that they could not have confidence that the military commission process would provide a fair trial according to international standards – still prevails.

And they would simply be asked to apply that principle to their newest and brightest and latest British citizen, David Hicks.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: But isn't this different, when that deal was negotiated when there were nine British citizens? So the deal could be considered within that context. Now there's suddenly an extra one, possibly.

DAVID MCLEOD: No differentiation was sought to be made between any of the nine. Indeed, some of them held dual citizenship in the same way that David now holds.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: But will the British Government go slow on this? And as Alexander Downer has already suggested, the US is unlikely to favour his release. All this means that the issue won't be resolved quickly.

Melbourne barrister Lex Lasry was appointed by the Law Council of Australia as the independent legal expert at the initial military commission hearings for David Hicks in Guantanamo Bay. He says the Australian Government should be embarrassed about its performance in this case.

LEX LASRY: Well I've never been able to understand why the Australian Government insists on saying with a straight face that this process is fair. And they've said it a number of times, and it just demonstrably isn't. And I've described in two reports why that is, and I don't think anyone seriously disagrees with me.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: The Australian Government has said now that it won't interfere at this point, it's between the British Government and the Hicks team. Is that the right way for them to play it?

LEX LASRY: Well, I suppose they're not actually involved in the current chapter. The litigation was effectively litigation which sought to establish Hicks' entitlement to British nationality, and that so far has been successful. There's probably no role for the Australians to play.

But the Australian Government may yet turn out to look silly, because they have condoned a process that the British Government simply won't condone.

MARK COLVIN: Lex Lasry, the independent legal observer at David Hicks' initial military commission hearings at Guantanamo Bay, ending Catherine McGrath's report.

Father of Australian Guantanamo detainee welcomes British decision
SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) - The father of the sole Australian inmate in Guantanamo Bay welcomed a court ruling that his son was entitled to British citizenship, saying it could lead to his release from the US-run prison.

David Hicks, 30, was captured by US-led coalition troops in late 2001 as he allegedly fought with Taliban forces in Afghanistan and has been detained ever since. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, attempted murder and aiding the enemy.

The Australian government has refused to push for his release, saying he will have to face US laws.

But the finding by the High Court in London Tuesday that Hicks was entitled to British citizenship could see him released from the US process.

The nine Britons originally detained in Guantanamo were all released after London successfully argued that no British citizen would be subject to US military commissions.

Hicks' father Terry said it was one the most important breakthroughs in his son's case.

"A while back we won a case through the American courts that deemed Guantanamo Bay was American soil and therefore detainees had rights to appeal in American courts, so that was the first one," he told ABC radio.

"And this one, yes, this is quite significant for David because it could be a way of having him released out of that Guantanamo Bay system."

Terry Hicks said it was possible the British government, which refused Hicks' initial plea for citizenship, could appeal the High Court's decision.

"I think it is probably a little bit different in David's case," he said.

"But if they don't go ahead with that (an appeal) and David retains that citizenship, then it will be quite interesting to see how the (British) government then react to trying to get David released from Guantanamo Bay as they did with their other nine."

Terry Hicks said he was interested to see how the Australian government, a staunch ally of the US, would react to the decision.

"Maybe the British could have a hand in getting him out of the situation he's in and if that happens I think the Australian government should be quite ashamed of themselves," he said.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer refused to comment on the possibility of Hicks' release but said the Adelaide man's case was different to those of the nine Britons who were released from Guantanamo.

"Other British detainees, of course, weren't charged and in David Hicks case he's been charged with offences such as conspiracy to commit war crimes and attempted murder," he told ABC radio.

"So how the British government will deal with that, I just don't know."

Hicks was eligible for British citizenship because his mother was born in England and lived there as a child.

Australia may not welcome British citizen Hicks back home
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 Guantanamo Bay.

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 said.

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 optimistic.

"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 embarrassing development.

"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."

AAP

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