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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 March, 2004, 15:43 GMT
Guantanamo Australians face trial
Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay
The Australians have been held at Guantanamo Bay for over two years
Two Australian citizens held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba are to be charged over their "significant links" to al-Qaeda.

David Hicks, 27, will be one of the first six Guantanamo Bay inmates to be tried by a US military commission.

Egyptian-born Mamdouh Habib, 47, is expected to be among the second group of prisoners sent for trial.

New laws passed by the Australian parliament would allow the pair to serve any sentences in Australia.

Attorney General Philip Ruddock said he had been advised by Washington that Mr Hicks and Mr Habib are alleged to have been involved with al-Qaeda and the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba.

He said the charges would revolve around their training.

But Mr Hicks' Australian lawyer, Stephen Kenny, said he was unaware of the exact charges the two men were facing.

"I am not certain as to exactly what they will ultimately be charged with, but it's very clear that simply training at an al-Qaeda camp is not in itself, at that time anyway, a criminal offence," he told Australian radio.

Trial concerns

The US military lawyer assigned to defend Mr Hicks has recently complained that his client will not receive a full and fair trial.

David Hicks and his common-law wife Jodie Sparrow

Marine Corps Major Mori said the commission process has been "created and controlled by those with a vested interest only in convictions".

Under the rules of the tribunal system, the Pentagon is allowed to monitor communications between detainees and their lawyers.

The trials will be conducted behind closed doors, and there is no right to appeal in a civilian court.

Washington and Canberra have agreed that the two Australians will not face the death penalty.

Mr Hicks was captured in Afghanistan late in 2001, allegedly fighting for the Taleban.

Mr Habib was arrested in 2001 in Pakistan. His family denies he has any links with al-Qaeda, saying he was captured while looking for a school for his children.

Both men have been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than two years without charge or trial.



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