Guantanamo detainee David Hicks seeks UK passport

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Detainee at Guantanamo Bay

According to his lawyers, Australian terror suspect David Hicks may be granted British citizenship tonight, a move that could see his release from Guantanamo Bay prison.

Hicks's lawyer David McLeod said his client may be able to leave the US facility in Cuba when the High Court reveals its decision tonight. "We're quietly confident that the judge will order that he be granted British citizenship," Mr McLeod said.

Hick's court action is based on his mother's British citizenship and is aimed at securing his release. He has a right under the British Nationality Act to apply for British citizenship. However, the British Home Office is reportedly fighting the application saying that because he was accused of "acts that are prejudicial to the United Kingdom", the British Government would strip him of citizenship immediately - if it were granted.

Mr Hicks' Australian lawyer says: "What we'll be doing is probably prevailing on the US Government to honour their agreement with the UK Government and release him to the UK and not to subject him to the military commissions," said Mr McLeod. "The UK Government has repatriated its other citizens and we hope they honour that."

Despite the Australian Howard Government's strong support for US military commissions and refusal to ask for Hicks's return to Australia, the British Blair Government has condemned the military commissions as a violation of international law. Britain won agreement from the US Bush Administration that no British citizen would be forced to face trial by military commission, and got its citizens released from Guantanamo Bay.

Hicks' lawyers expect him to be granted British citizenship tonight. They will immediately request the US and British governments release him to Britain.

Hicks, 30, was due to be the first of nine detainees to face the US military commissions last month before a US District Court judge stopped in the proceedings. His trial is due to be held late next year. The US Government detained Hicks since 2001, after his capture in Afghanistan. He has been charged with attempted murder, conspiracy and aiding the enemy. He is believed to be the only Westerner left in Guantanamo Bay prison.