[JURIST] Australia's justice minister has denounced the five year detention without trial of Australian citizen David Hicks [JURIST news archive, AI archive] in Australia's boldest official statement in several months concerning the Guantanamo prisoner. In a speech in Perth to the International Criminal Lawyers' Conference, Christopher Ellison [official profile] said of the Australian government, "We have made it clear that we do not think that [Hicks' situation] is satisfactory." Australia is keeping in close contact with US officials, Ellison reported, and would consider an agreement to transfer Hicks to an Australian prison. Hicks was interned at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] soon after he was captured for allegedly fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. While he will likely be tried under the newly-signed [JURIST report] Military Commissions Act [text, PDF], his defense team recently announced their intent to challenge that as unconstitutional [JURIST report].
Although Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock [official website] announced in August that the government would push for Hicks' return to Australia, Canberra has not made any such statements since that time. Last week the Australian Lawyers Alliance unanimously condemned the conservative administration of Prime Minister John Howard [JURIST report] for its handling of the matter. In a Thursday interview with ABC news [transcript], Ruddock said that he would support a plea bargain between Hicks and the US government, stating, "We want these issues dealt with as quickly as possible." Hicks counsel Michael Mori ruled out the possibility, however. AFP has more.