- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Pentagon yesterday said Australia’s David Hicks will stand trial on charges of terrorism in a military commission, days after Australia’s prime minister complained about the suspected al Qaeda recruit’s detention at Guantanamo Bay.

Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, said Mr. Hicks will be arraigned before a military commission within 30 days and his trial will be held within four months. Mr. Hick is charged with “providing material support for terrorism.” A charge of attempted murder was withdrawn.

Mr. Hicks, 31, a former kangaroo skinner and father of two from Adelaide, trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan for much of 2001, meeting al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and several of his top lieutenants, including “shoe-bomber” Richard C. Reid, according to the charging document released yesterday.

U.S.-backed Afghan forces, known as the Northern Alliance, captured Mr. Hicks in December 2001 as he retreated along with the Taliban, al Qaeda fighters and U.S.-born Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh, the charging document says.

Mr. Hicks had abandoned fellow fighters, sold his Kalashnikov rifle and was attempting to escape to Pakistan, the documents say.

If found guilty by the five-member military commission, Mr. Hicks faces a maximum sentence of life in prison to be served in Australia.

During a press conference with Vice President Dick Cheney on Saturday, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said he had asked Mr. Cheney in a private meeting to bring Mr. Hicks to trial “as soon as humanly possible and with no further delay” adding that he had “no judgment about guilt or innocence” and was not “a sympathizer of David Hicks.”

A spokesman for Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock said from Canberra today that his government remained unhappy with the delay but “we are pleased the case is moving towards trial.”

“Mr. Hicks can now look forward to his day in court,” spokesman Michael Pelly told The Washington Times.

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