Sat, Mar 03, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Aussie Guantanamo inmate faces `made-up charges'

AP , CANBERRA

Lawyers and the family of the first Guantanamo Bay inmate likely to face a US military tribunal for alleged terrorism said yesterday charges were being fabricated and applied retroactively to the man's case.

David Hicks, an Australian allegedly fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan when he was captured in late 2001, was charged by the Pentagon on Thursday with providing material support for terrorism, more than five years after he was jailed at Guantanamo Bay.

Hicks was not charged with attempted murder, as had earlier been recommended by military prosecutors.

Major Michael Mori, Hicks' Pentagon-appointed lawyer, said the decision to drop the attempted murder charge indicated a lack of evidence against his client, and that the charge against him was unfair because it did not exist at the time of Hicks' capture.

"The United States administration -- this military commission -- is fabricating offenses, they're trying to apply them retroactively to David," Mori told Australian Broadcasting.

"It's disgusting that he has spent five years in Guantanamo for made-up charges," Mori said.

US prosecutors argue the offense did exist at the time of Hicks' capture, though not as a military crime.

The argument over the charge underscores a broader debate about the legality of the military tribunal system.

Hicks' father, Terry Hicks, said the military commission would "not be a fair process" because hearsay evidence and statements made under coercion would be accepted.

Mori said the Australian government, which yesterday expressed confidence in the military tribunal system, should recognize the process was unfair.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has refused to ask Washington to repatriate Hicks.

The Pentagon alleges that for about a year starting around December 2000, Hicks provided "support or resources to be used in preparation for, or in carrying out, an act of terrorism" and that he "knew or intended" for the support to be used for terrorism.

Hicks is the first of some 385 Guantanamo inmates to be charged since the US Supreme Court knocked down previous charges against Guantanamo detainees.

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