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Australian detainee is first military trials law case

By Washington Post
Published March 2, 2007


WASHINGTON - Pentagon officials announced Thursday that David Hicks, an Australian detainee held in U.S. custody for more than five years, will face two counts of providing material support for terrorism, the first time anyone has been charged under the new U.S. law governing military trials for some foreign terrorism suspects.

The case against Hicks marks the first use of rules established by the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which was enacted last year when Republicans still controlled Congress and after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down earlier rules for the military trials.

With their party now in control of Congress, some Democrats have been outspoken about wanting to revamp the act to provide suspects with more rights and eliminate the use of evidence obtained through coercion. Legislation has been introduced that would restore rights of detainees such as Hicks to challenge their detentions via habeas corpus petitions, something a federal appeals court in Washington recently ruled were prohibited under current law.

The filing of charges also could prompt Hicks' attorneys to initiate a new legal challenge of the law. Defense attorneys for a group of foreign nationals held in the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - including Hicks - have filed lawsuits alleging that its provisions are unconstitutional, but recently lost at the appellate level.

The detainees' attorneys said they plan to file a petition Monday for an expedited hearing in the Supreme Court.

According to charging documents, Hicks, 31, a former kangaroo skinner, spent 1999 through 2001 working with extremist groups in the Balkans, Pakistan and Afghanistan before joining up with al-Qaida.

[Last modified March 2, 2007, 01:18:33]

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