Prime Minister John Howard today told ABC radio that Australia had no option but to allow the trial to go ahead because Mr Hicks could not be tried in his home country.
“I don’t ignore criticisms … but I do know that in the long run we have no capacity to try Mr Hicks because he did not commit an offence against… Australian criminal law and the consequence of simply saying he should come home would be that he would go free without answering in any way to those allegations,” Mr Howard said.
Two former US prosecutors have claimed that the military commissions conducting trials of Mr Hicks and other Guantanamo Bay detainees are a sham, something the US denies.
The Australian Defence Force’s top lawyer Captain Paul Willee, QC, has also expressed grave concerns about the court process, saying it would breach natural justice if the claims by the former US prosecutors are true.
But the Australian government maintains that Mr Hicks will receive a fair trial and that the military commissions have been restructured since the former prosecutors’ complaints were made in March 2004.
Mr Howard said he was satisfied the claims had been investigated.
“In relation to the most recent allegations made by the two Americans, our ambassador of state… and the head of the military commission operation said that those allegations have been extensively investigated over a two-month period… by the people against whom the allegations were made.”
Mr Hicks has been held at the US facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for more than three-and-a-half years. He is accused of training with al-Qaeda.
Mr Howard said the rights of Mr Hicks had to be weighed against the liberty of citizens who might be affected by acts of terrorism.