From correspondents in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - March 26, 2007 - Article from: AAP
THE US military's chief prosecutor, Colonel Morris Davis, today said he would not be surprised if a last-minute plea deal was struck with David Hicks's lawyers.
Hicks, the accused Australian terrorist, will appear in a Guantanamo Bay court room tonight.
Hicks had been expected to plead not guilty to a charge of providing material support for terrorism, but comments by Col Davis and Hicks's father, Terry, on the eve of the court proceedings have raised speculation a deal could be made.
Col Davis was coy on the subject at a press conference at Guantanamo today and did not rule it out.
"I've been at this long enough to never be surprised by anything, so no, I wouldn't (be surprised)," Col Davis said.
He said a plea deal had been discussed with Hicks's US military lawyer, Major Michael Mori, in January.
"There have been continuing discussions, but again the specifics I would defer to the defence," Col Davis said.
Terry Hicks said he was not sure whether his son would plead guilty or not guilty at tomorrow's arraignment.
"We don't know what David is going to do as far as whether he is going to plead guilty or plead not guilty, or whether they have dangled the carrot in front of him," Mr Hicks said at the Australian embassy in Washington DC today.
"We just have to wait and see on that side of it."
Mr Hicks and his daughter, Stephanie, will fly from Washington DC to the US naval station on Guantanamo just hours before Hicks appears before the military commission.
Hicks's legal team had been adamant he would plead not guilty to the charge of providing material support for terrorism.
Before the court appearance, Hicks will meet his father and sister in a secure room under the watchful eyes of US military security personnel.
It will be the first time Mr Hicks has seen his son since 2004 at the Guantanamo detainee facility.
"He's not going to be the same person I saw three-and-a-half-years ago," Mr Hicks said. "We'll have to brace ourselves for that."
Hicks has been locked up at Guantanamo for more than five years and his mental and physical condition have deteriorated, his lawyers have said.
"We are not sure what questions we are going to ask at this point because things change all of a sudden," Mr Hicks said.
"We don't know how David is going to be like - how his mental condition is or how his physical condition is.
"So we are probably going to be aware that he's changed and we'll just take it from there."
During the 2004 meeting, Mr Hicks said his son was shackled to the floor.
"It's pretty hard to take if he's shackled," Mr Hicks said.
"The last time I saw David he was shackled to the floor and it was pretty hard to take.
"It will be an emotional meeting.
"The questions you have in mind go out the window."
The Australian Government agreed to pay for Mr Hicks and daughter Stephanie to travel to Guantanamo, but Mr Hicks, who has been critical of the Howard Government, said he was skeptical of the gesture.
He joked the Government could send him a bill for the airfares.
"I still think this is all political at the moment," Mr Hicks said.
"I suppose I shouldn't be saying that.
".. This is one way I suppose of appeasing everybody and saying 'Well, we paid for the Hicks's family to go over'.
"After this session they will probably ask us to pay for it. But it's still political."
Hicks, 31, originally from Adelaide, was taken into custody while allegedly fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001.