The Federal Court’s decision yesterday to reject attempts by Attorney General Ruddock to stop David Hicks’ case before Australian courts is a serious rebuke to the federal government.

Hicks was purchased by the US military from an Afghan warlord nearly six years ago, was tortured and then sent to Guantanamo Bay, a place designed to be beyond the reach of any proper US judicial system.

Prime Minster Howard and the Attorney General have consistently hidden from the Australian people their knowledge of the illegality of the US actions and have made no attempt to protect an Australian citizen from this wrong. Instead they have allowed Hicks to enter his sixth year in solitary confinement and to be informed that he is to face a so called “charge” which did not exist when he was purchased.

If he had committed any offence against the US at the time he could have been tried in an American court. Since no such charge existed in US law, it is clearly what Major Mori has described as a “made up offence”.

Creating a retrospective criminal offence is abhorrent to a civilised judicial system. The Military Tribunal was set up last year — to be beyond proper judicial supervision — and it must remembered that no US citizen can be charged in that Tribunal, where hearsay and evidence given under torture, is admissible.

The Prime Minister continues to refer to the Tribunal as a “court”. In reality it is the US equivalent of a kangaroo court.

Our government has been complicit in these arrangements and fair-minded Australians believe that we should have followed the lead of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was very prompt in demanding, successfully, that UK citizens be returned home.

The Federal Government should demand that Hicks be immediately returned to Australia . Here, if Hicks has committed any offence, he can be dealt fairly.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey