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Australia, US agree on Guantanamo inmate transfer

Written by: Staff

Canberra, May 10 : Australia has reached an agreement with the United States to allow one of its nationals detained at Guantanamo Bay to serve a possible jail sentence in his home country, the government said today.

David Hicks, 30, accused of being an al Qaeda fighter, has been held in Guantanamo for four years after capture by US forces in Afghanistan in 2001.

He is due to face a U.S. military commission on charges of aiding the enemy, attempted murder and conspiracy to commit war crimes.

''Should Mr Hicks ... be convicted, the arrangement would provide a means for Mr Hicks to apply to be transferred to serve any penal sentence in Australia in accordance with Australian and U.S. law,'' Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in a statement.

Downer said any transfer would still need the approval of the U.S. and Australian governments. Any sentence would be governed by Australian law, but must maintain the legal nature and duration of the original sentence.

Hicks, whose mother was born in Britain, has sought British citizenship, hoping London would secure his release from Guantanamo as it did for nine British nationals held there.

Australia has refused to seek Hicks' repatriation. Last month Hicks, a convert to Islam, won a landmark legal victory allowing him to claim British citizenship, but the British government could still appeal to the House of Lords.


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