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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 09:55 GMT
Australia wants Taleban Aussie back
Picture reportedly showing David Hicks (left) posing with colleagues of the Kosovo Liberation Army
Mr Hicks (L) has no legal representation
Australia's defence minster has said he hopes an Australian Taleban fighter being held at a US navy base in Cuba will face trial at home.

Islamic convert David Hicks, 26, who was captured in Aghanistan last month, is being detained with other prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba.

We would like him tried in Australia under Australian law and we're still working on that

Australian Defence Minister Robert Hill
The US plans to hold military tribunals to try the prisoners - though it was announced on Tuesday that an American fighter, John Walker Lindh, is instead to be tried in a civilian court.

There is growing criticism in Australia at the fact that Mr Hicks is being held but has not yet been charged with any crime.

Australian Defence Minister Robert Hill, speaking in London, said he had "no complaints" at how the US was treating Mr Hicks, but hoped the prisoner could face justice in Australia.

"We would like him tried in Australia under Australian law and we're still working on that," said Mr Hill.

He said no charges could be brought until it was established what laws, if any, Mr Hicks had broken.

"He may have committed offences under US law for which he can be tried in the US, and he may have committed offences under Australian law for which he can be tried in Australia," sad Mr Hill.

"I'm confident that if we request that he be handed over to us to be tried in Australia, the Americans will co-operate."

Human rights complaints

Mr Hicks arrived at Guantanamo Bay on Saturday, blindfolded and in chains. He has no legal representation, and Australia has denied him any consular contact.

American Taleban member John Walker Lindh
American John Walker Lindh is to be tried in a civil court
Civil rights groups have criticised the US decision to class the detainees as "illegal combatants" rather than prisoners of war (POWs).

POWs have rights under the 1949 Geneva Convention, such as their own lawyer and trial by an independent, impartial court.

High-profile Australian barrister Geoffrey Robertson said in Wednesday's Sydney Morning Herald newspaper that Canberra should insist on POW status for Mr Hicks.

He said the trials of the Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters would be best conducted by the United Nations and not before US military tribunals.

"[These tribunals'] decisions will not be acceptable internationally and will only serve to discredit an exercise which began as Operation Infinite Justice," Mr Robertson wrote.

See also:

16 Jan 02 | Americas
US Taleban suspect faces civil trial
14 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Taleban Aussie to be handed to US
12 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australian captured in Afghanistan
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
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