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Hicks could be returned to Australia after US military tribunal guilty plea

[JURIST] Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks [JURIST news archive] may be sentenced this week after pleading guilty [JURIST report] Monday to a charge of supporting terrorism [JURIST report] and could return home to serve his sentence by the end of the year, according to US military officials. Col. Ralph Kohlmann, the judge presiding over Hicks' military commission [JURIST news archive], issued a gag order in the case, so it was unclear whether a plea bargain had been reached between Hicks and the US government. Lawyers for Hicks said their client was severely depressed and questioned the fairness of his impending trial, especially since two of his lawyers were disqualified by Kohlmann at a hearing earlier Monday. Col. Morris Davis [official profile], chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] tribunals, speculated that Hicks would return to Australia by the end of the year to serve his sentence. The sentence must be approved by a panel of military tribunal members, which could occur this week. Davis said he plans to seek a sentence of 20 years for the charge against Hicks and the five years he has already been detained may be included as time served toward the total sentence.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer [official website] said he was pleased that this "saga" had come to an end [transcript; ABC Australia report], but also criticized the US legal process for taking too much time to charge and arraign Hicks, echoing comments by Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official website]. Hicks is the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried [JURIST report] under the new Military Commissions Act [PDF text] that revived the tribunals after the US Supreme Court ruled that the previous system, created under an executive order from US President George W. Bush, was unconstitutional. AP has more.

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