Accused Australian Taliban fighter David Hicks on Wednesday denied war crimes charges made at a US military tribunal which in turned faced renewed criticism of bias. \nHicks, 29, put on a suit to meet his father for the first time in five years, before being escorted into the tribunal by military police. \nAfter an emotional reunion, Terry Hicks said his son had told "unpleasant stories" of being abused while in US military custody in Afghanistan after his capture in late 2001. \nHicks, a former ranch hand and kangaroo hunter who is just 1.57 meters tall was charged with conspiracy to attack civilians, attempted murder and aiding the enemy by fighting with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. \nDuring his appearance, Hicks spoke only to say he was happy with his defense team and later: "Sir, to all charges, not guilty." \nHis defense made motions for the charges to be dismissed and that the military commission was not competent to try the case. \nThe response of the US military authorities, which are running the controversial commissions, will be announced on Nov. 2, 2004. A full trial has been scheduled to start on Jan. 10, 2005. \nThe US military case is that after converting to Islam in 2000, Hicks went to Pakistan where he joined the radical group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. \nAccording to the charges, he was sent to al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, met Osama bin Laden, and joined Taliban fighters against US and coalition forces before his capture in December 2001. \nHicks had put on weight but was otherwise in good physical health, said his father. \nThe US military provided the suit for the tribunal hearing that his military lawyer, Major Michael Mori, said was the first he had ever worn. \nThe legs had to be shortened to make them fit. \nAll 585 detainees at Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba are normally held in isolation and in shackles. \nTerry Hicks and civilian lawyer Josh Draytell said that Hicks was abused while in US military custody in Afghanistan. \n"His treatment was not very pleasant in the early stages, the report from the English is correct," Terry Hicks told reporters, referring to a sworn statement by three former British war on terror detainees who said Hicks had been tortured. \n"He has been abused in not very pleasant ways, I think it will come out later," Terry Hicks said. \nAustralia asked the US authorities to investigate after claims by three former British inmates that Hicks and another Australian inmate, Mamdouh Habib, were tortured. \nHicks was allegedly tied hand-and-foot before being beaten and Habib allegedly dragged around by a chain on his foot. \nUS authorities have denied there has been any abuse at Guantanamo. \nHicks' lawyers are making a new attempt to launch civil action against the military commissions in US courts. \nThe defense has made 19 motions to the tribunal urging it to dismiss the charges for reasons ranging from the invalidity of the military commission and charges to the failure to give US and foreign suspects equal treatment. \nThe United States last held such a commission in 1948 and defense lawyers and rights groups have protested it is unfair because of the lack of appeal to an independent body and evidence restrictions. \nJosh Dratel, the lead defense counsel, said: "This is a process that is completely unfathomable. It isn't found in the military, civil or international courts." \n"We have never hidden from David that he is facing an unfair system resuscitated from the 1940s and his life and freedom is in jeopardy," Major Michael Mori, a military lawyer for the Australian, added. \nThe lawyers also hope Australia will be able to take advantage of any future deal Britain makes with the US government about the return of British detainees. \nFour Britons are still held at Guantanamo and the British government has reportedly refused to accept military commissions for its nationals. On Tuesday, Osama bin Laden's personal driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a 34-year-old Yemeni, was formally charged in the first hearing of the new military commissions. \nA Yemeni and a Sudanese are due to face similar pre-trial hearings on yesterday and today.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big