SYDNEY, Australia – A lawyer for an Australian terror suspect detained at Guantanamo Bay expressed satisfaction Friday over a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down proposed military war crimes tribunals at the U.S. prison camp.
"I'm obviously very pleased that the Supreme Court has finally set the record straight on these military commissions, that they don't provide the basic fundamental protections that are required at any criminal trial," said Maj. Michael Mori, the Pentagon-appointed lawyer for David Hicks, Australia's sole inmate at the U.S. military camp in Cuba.
"It's very important that we stick to our fundamental principles of due process. We were starting to sacrifice those values and the Supreme Court has put us back on track," Mori told The Associated Press by telephone from the United States.
Hicks, 31, has been held at Guantanamo since 2002 after being captured in 2001 in Afghanistan, where he was allegedly fighting with the Taliban.
He was one of a handful of prisoners selected to face the U.S. military commissions on charges of terrorist conspiracy and aiding the enemy. He has pleaded innocent.
But the U.S. Supreme Court found Thursday that the proposed trials were illegal under U.S. law and international Geneva conventions.
Ruling on a case brought by Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who worked as a bodyguard and driver for Osama bin Laden, the Supreme Court found that U.S. President George W. Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Officials in Australian Prime Minister John Howard's conservative government have repeatedly expressed faith in the U.S. military tribunals.
However, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said earlier this week that Australia would consider taking Hicks back should the U.S. Supreme Court find the military trials illegal.
"If they say that the military commissions are completely unacceptable and shouldn't proceed ... we'll obviously have to consider our position," Downer told the British Broadcasting Corp. in London. "What we've said about Hicks is that he's got to be charged and tried, but if they're not going to charge him and try him they should release him."
Calls to Downer's office were not immediately returned early Friday.
Mori said he hoped Australia would reconsider its position in line with Downer's remarks.
"I expect them to follow through on that and after four and a half years at Guantanamo Bay David would be quickly reunited with his family," Mori said.