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Hicks charges coming soon: Australia AG

[JURIST] Australian Attorney General Phillip Ruddock [official profile] said Tuesday that Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks [JURIST news archive] will be among the first of the Guantanamo detainees to be brought to trial before new US military commissions. In a news conference [transcript], Ruddock said that US counterpart Alberto Gonzales had assured him that Hicks would be charged soon after regulations setting forth procedures for military commissions [JURIST news archive] are promulgated. Ruddock said that is expected by January 17. Hicks also stressed that Australian Prime Minister John Howard "has made it clear that we are very anxious that this matter be resolved as quickly as possible. And we continue to press the United States on those matters, and we're not happy about the delay." The Australian government has been under increasing pressure [JURIST report] to call for Hicks' release, a step which Howard, a staunch US ally, has been extremely reluctant to take. Over the weekend, however, Howard seemed to signal a shift on Hicks with a comment [Melbourne Age report] that "the acceptability of him being kept in custody diminishes by the day." AAP has more.

Ruddock's comments come the day after Australia's new independent military prosecutor called the treatment of Hicks "abominable," saying that he is entitled to a fair trial [JURIST report]. Hicks has been held by the US since 2001 when he was captured in Afghanistan. President Bush has promised that a trial will be held [JURIST report], but has offered no timetable.

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