The following appears from the World Today transcript for Friday 9 March 2007:

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Before Congress considers legislation that provides for the continued funding for Guantanamo Bay … [Influential Democrat congressman Jack] Murtha wants to hold a series of public hearings to highlight what’s been going on at the detention camp.

Detainee lawyers and civil liberties groups are among the first witnesses expected to be called.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates says he understands the concerns but closing Guantanamo Bay isn’t as straightforward as it sounds.

ROBERT GATES: The President has said he’d like to close the detainee facility there. I’d like to close the facility there, the problem is that we have a certain number of the detainees there who often by their own confession, are people who if released would come back to attack the United States.

There are others that we would like to turn back to their home countries, but their home countries don’t want them.

So, we are trying to address the problem of how do we reduce the numbers at Guantanamo and then what do you do with the relatively limited number that you probably… that it would be irresponsible to release.

And I would tell you that we’re wrestling with those questions right now.

If Gates is telling the truth then it is more than passing strange that the ONLY Guantanamo Bay inmate to be charged is David Hicks.

If the US wants to return the inmates then how come Howard hasn’t asked for it?
If the issue is that Hicks will be free to leave to go overseas and “attack the US” why hasn’t Australia suggested some terms for him to be required to remain in Australia?

Why has the US been effectively forced to “make up” a charge against Hicks just to pacify the Australian government demand for him to be charged when the Defence Secretary is acknowledging that the US want to get the detainees back to their home countries.

Someone is telling porky pies. Could it be the Ruddock-Howard claim — that “we really have been pressuring the US to charge Hicks” is, like the children overboard affair, just a political spin campaign at the expense of vulnerable people?

Perhaps the time has come to demand that Howard formally request the return of Hicks or be exposed as a fraud on this issue.

Peter Fray

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