[JURIST] Australia [JURIST news archive] will pursue the return of David Hicks [JURIST news archive] from the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] if new charges are not brought and a military tribunal formed by November, Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock [official profile] told the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday. Such a promise was made by US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile], Ruddock said, and if it is not kept, the Australian government will seek Hicks' return, as it did with another Guantanamo detainee, Mamdouh Habib [BBC profile]. Ruddock's comments mark the first time the Australian government has publicly suggested that Hicks might leave Guantanamo without a trial. Ruddock said that if Hicks does return to Australia, he will not be charged there because he did not break Australian laws.
Hicks has been held at Guantanamo since late 2001, when he was captured in Afghanistan - where he allegedly fought for the Taliban - and turned over to US forces. Accused [charges, PDF] of conspiracy to commit war crimes, aiding the enemy and attempted murder, Hicks was one of ten Guantanamo detainees facing trial by military commissions [JURIST news archive]. The US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] in June, however, that the commissions as constituted were illegal under military law and the Geneva Conventions, forcing Congress to write legislation authorizing them - which may not occur before US mid-term elections in November. On Sunday, a lawyer for Hicks predicted that his client may remain in US military custody for up to seven more years [JURIST report] because of likely legal challenges to whatever replacement system is eventually established to try the Guantanamo detainees. The Sydney Morning Herald has more.