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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 February 2007, 11:35 GMT
Hicks to return home 'this year'
David Hicks
The US has charged David Hicks with attempted murder
Australia's only remaining detainee at the US military jail in Guantanamo Bay could be home by the end of the year.

David Hicks will face a US military commission this year, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.

Mr Hicks will either be sent home a free man or, if found guilty, serve any sentence in Australia, Mr Downer said.

Mr Hicks, 31, has been held at Guantanamo Bay for five years. He was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001 for allegedly fighting with the Taleban.

"If the trial proceeds and proceeds quickly... then it'll be possible to get Mr Hicks back to Australia by the end of the year, either to serve in a prison in Australia or of course just to be released, depending on the result of the trial," Mr Downer told Australian TV network Channel 9.

Charge sheet

Earlier this month the US released more details of the charges against Mr Hicks, a father of two.

The document revealed for the first time allegations that he was mentored by alleged UK shoe bomber Richard Reid in Afghanistan.

We are on our way to a trial before a military commission, at which Mr Hicks is sure to receive a fair trial. And that's what the US is committed to
Senior US official

It also alleges that he took part in an al-Qaeda training course in 2001, armed himself with 300 rounds of ammunition and three grenades and used the alias Abu Muslim Australia as he conducted surveillance of the US and British embassies in Kabul.

Mr Hicks is facing charges of providing material support for terrorism and attempted murder.

The Muslim convert and former kangaroo skinner pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, attempted murder and aiding the enemy in August 2004.

Those charges were dropped last year when the US Supreme Court ruled the military commission was unlawful.

The announcements come ahead of US Vice President Dick Cheney's visit to Australia this week.

David Hicks
Mr Hicks has been at Guantanamo Bay for five years without trial

Mr Cheney will meet Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Friday with the case of Mr Hicks high on the agenda, as Mr Howard's government comes under pressure over the case.

"The vice-president is going to, obviously, want to listen closely to the prime minister's concerns," a senior US official said.

"We are on our way to a trial before a military commission, at which Mr Hicks is sure to receive a fair trial. And that's what the United States is committed to."

The opposition Australian Labor Party has accused the government of neglecting Hicks' case. They say the government's lobbying now is a ploy ahead of a federal election due in the next 12 months.

"Given the government's record to date on Hicks, they seem to be responding because we're coming up to an election and there's public outrage," foreign affairs spokesman Robert McClelland told the national broadcaster, ABC.

Australia's only other Guantanamo Bay inmate, Mamdouh Habib, was released in January 2005.

He is now running as a candidate in the upcoming New South Wales state election.

US releases details against Hicks
16 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific
The 'Australian Taleban'
13 Dec 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Howard faces election year battle
15 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Australia
23 Jan 07 |  Country profiles

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