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Arraignment set for Australian suspect

March 08, 2007|From the Associated Press

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — Australian terrorism suspect David Hicks will make his first appearance before a U.S. military commission March 20, more than five years after he was imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Prime Minister John Howard said Thursday.

Hicks, the only Australian at the U.S. military prison in Cuba, was charged March 1 with providing material support for terrorism. He will be the first inmate at the camp to face a military commission for alleged crimes in the U.S.-declared war on terrorism.

"It is not before time -- it has taken too long," Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

One of Hicks' civilian lawyers, Joshua Dratel, said that Hicks would plead not guilty.

But the case could be delayed after the March 20 arraignment, Dratel said, because of an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court by Guantanamo inmates that could for a second time shoot down the military tribunal process.

Howard, a staunch White House ally in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has raised the Hicks issue in recent weeks with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Hicks is a former kangaroo skinner and a Muslim convert who was captured with Taliban fighters by U.S.-allied Afghan forces in late 2001. He was handed over to U.S. forces and shipped to Guantanamo Bay in early 2002.

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