And now, to the latest twist in the saga of terror suspect
David Hicks, said Tracey Bowden on ABC’s 7.30
last night, reporting the news that the former “kangaroo skinner and Muslim
” from Adelaide, who has been held for four years in America’s Guantanamo Bay
prison camp, yesterday won a court battle to be registered as a British

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser told Crikey he was “delighted”
about the British court’s decision. “I
very much hope that Britain
will treat Hicks, a British citizen, in the way it treated other British
citizens in Guantanamo Bay. If he were to be tried in Britain
we know he would get a fair trial. We
also know that the Military Tribunals in the United
States will not, by British standards,
provide a fair trial. The fact that the
Australian Government has been prepared to accept this is a disgrace.”

Hicks, whose mother was born in Britain,
sought British citizenship in the hopes that Britain
would take up his case with Washington
as it did for nine other Britons who were released from the camp on the eastern
tip of Cuba,
where he’s been held since being caught in Afghanistan
in December 2001, allegedly fighting with the ousted Taliban regime.

Last month, the British Home Office rejected Hicks’s
application for British citizenship on character grounds, but his lawyers
appealed. On Tuesday, Justice Andrew Collins ruled that Home Secretary Charles
Clarke had no power to reject Hicks’s citizenship application. The government is
considering whether to appeal.

“The bottom line is, we’re in a place that actually has
a rule of law,” said Clive Stafford-Smith, an attorney working on Hicks’
case. “The British government is mandated to take action.” But despite the court ruling, there’s considerable doubt
about Hicks’s hopes for freedom, saysThe Sydney Morning Herald today.

Even without an appeal,
there could be logistical difficulties – with Hicks jailed in Cuba – that might prevent him completing the
necessary paperwork to secure British citizenship. And even if he does gain
citizenship, there’s no guarantee the UK
government would seek his release.

Meanwhile, after first saying the Australian government
wouldn’t challenge Hicks’s return home, via British soil, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has today thrown doubt on this. “In so far as he’s a British citizen, then he would
have to make application to come to Australia
if he wished to do so and that’s something we would consider if the
circumstances ever arose,” he said.

Downer also supports the US’s
plan to go ahead with the trial against Hicks. “Somebody who is charged with a
conspiracy to commit war crimes and attempted murder, believe me, I think
should face those charges,” he told the 7.30
“I don’t think just because he’s an Australian or any nationality, somebody
should just be able to wash their hands of charges as serious as that… He’s
welcome to return home if he’s acquitted. If he’s convicted, he will face

But the Australian government’s general indifference to the
Australian citizen’s plight has drawn considerable criticism. “It reflects
badly,” says Lex Lasry QC,
“two lawyers involved, the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General should be
able to see the unfairness and they’ve not pointed to it in the way that the
English have.”

“For Australia,
this is yet another shameful episode in the story of David Hicks,” says The Age‘s editorial today.
“While the Howard Government has been content to renege on Australia’s
commitment to the rule of law by failing one of its citizens, the British legal
system has not been prepared to allow him to rot in detention without the
guarantee of a fair and proper trial.”