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US rules out death penalty for Hicks
16:48 AEST Wed Jul 20 2005

The United States has ruled out the death penalty for terrorist suspect David Hicks, backing previous statements by Australian authorities.

The US military legal adviser overseeing Hicks' trial, Air Force Brigadier General Thomas Hemingway, conceded there was not enough evidence in the case to warrant him seeking the death penalty.

Brig Gen Hemingway's admission follows assurances by federal Justice Minister Chris Ellison in July 2003 that Hicks would not face the death penalty.

Senator Ellison said at the time that if Hicks, who has since been charged with conspiracy, attempted murder and aiding the enemy, was convicted then the US and Australian governments would discuss whether his sentence could be served in Australia.

Hicks is one of four terrorist suspects detained by the US at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be charged.

Charges against another eight terrorist suspects are currently being prepared.

Brig Gen Hemingway said there was no evidence in any of the cases to warrant the death penalty.

He said the trials, which were put on hold until a US court last week endorsed the use of military commissions to try terrorist suspects, could now be resumed within 30 to 45 days of the issuance of some necessary court orders.

Hicks' US Marine Corps lawyer, Major Michael Mori, said a conviction for the Adelaide-born terrorist suspect was virtually guaranteed under the military commission process.

"The rules are set up to convict," Maj Mori told ABC Radio National.

"It's like Alice in Wonderland - where they came up with this process, I don't know.

"The rules and procedures established for the commissions will not provide a fair trial.

"It basically abandons every fundamental principle that you would find in a military court martial or a civil or criminal trial to protect people's rights.

"It's a throwback to the 1940s military commissions that we did in World War II.

"The military commissions don't represent any notion of fairness or justice that I was taught either in law school or my time in the Marine Corps."

Hicks' legal team will apply to the US Federal Court to have his military tribunal scrapped.

Meanwhile, the Law Council of Australia, which has also criticised the military commissions as unfair, is to release its latest report on the legal barriers confronting Hicks.

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