Hicks, a convert to Islam who was allegedly trained in al-Qaeda camps, was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and has been detained at Guantanamo for more than three years as an enemy combatant.

Pentagon officials have identified the other detainee as Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni whose trial was halted as a result of a lower court ruling in November.

Hamdan is alleged to have worked as a bodyguard and driver of America’s most wanted man, Osama bin Laden.

Speaking at a press conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Mr Rumsfeld also said charges would be laid against eight other detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Expressing his satisfaction with the process, Prime Minister John Howard said the charges against Mr Hicks are particularly serious and he looks forward to them being dealt with by the military tribunal.

The developments follow a decision by a US Appeals Court that trials for detainees at Guantanamo Bay are lawful.

The appeals court reaffirmed US President George W Bush’s authority to order trials of terrorism suspects by special military commissions.

“The court’s ruling marks an advance in the global struggle against extremists and aids the effort to protect innocent life,” said Mr Rumsfeld.

“It vindicates the president’s determination to treat prospective terrorists humanely but not to grant them the protection of the Geneva Conventions as a matter of right.”

Terry Hicks, the father of Australian detainee, David Hicks, said the commission has come too soon for his son.

“We were hoping that these commissions would be put on hold for a bit longer to give David’s lawyers a chance to get his case to the Federal Court,” said Terry Hicks.

But the decision had come as no surprise as Mr Hicks said he felt the federal government had always wanted his son to go before a US military commission rather than a civilian court.

“Probably the reason is the Australian government wants David to face the commissions more than the Federal Court.”

“That way they could probably get some finality out of this,” he said.

Terry Hicks said he hopes to travel to Guantanamo Bay for the hearings, particularly as his son is suffering eye and chronic back problems.

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