hicks to plead guilty in deal

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    "The Courier-Mail"

    Hicks to plead guilty in deal: report
    From correspondents in Washington

    TERROR suspect David Hicks is expected to plead guilty to war crimes and renounce terrorism in return for a firm release date, according to a US newspaper report.

    Adelaide-born Hicks was captured with Taliban forces in Afghanistan and has been held without charge in the US base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba since January last year.

    Hicks is one of six detainees recently declared eligible to face trial before a military tribunal, although the US has guaranteed he and two British detainees will not face the death penalty.

    The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed officials, reported today that Hicks and the two Britons were expected to plead guilty to war crimes and renounce terrorism in return for a firm release date.

    Asked about the report, Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Major John Smith, said no plea agreement had been discussed with any of the detainees because none had been charged or assigned defence counsel.

    But he did not rule out that possibility.

    "I'm not going to argue and say that couldn't happen down the road," Smith said.

    "(But) talking about those kind of things right now is putting the cart ahead of the horse. We're not looking to plea bargain with anyone until they have a defence counsel,' he said.

    "In fact, they can't plea bargain unless someone is represented, and right now no one has been assigned a defence counsel," he said.

    Two alleged former bodyguards of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden were expected to be the first to face an adversarial trial by military commissions, the newspaper said.

    The Australian Government says Hicks, 28, has admitted to training with al-Qaeda, the group behind the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US.

    However Hicks' father Terry says his son was a Taliban fighter who received military training from al-Qaeda, but had no terrorist training.

    Hicks, together with British nationals Feroz Abbasi, 23, and Mozzam Begg, 35, were named among six of the estimated 660 Guantanamo detainees designated as subject to trial by military commissions early last month.

    But after a storm of criticism in Britain and Australia, the US gave allies assurances that US military prosecutors would not seek the death penalty against the three.

    Among the assurances given the British were that their nationals could be represented by US civilian lawyers with a British lawyer acting as a legal consultant and that conversations between the detainees and their lawyers would not be monitored.

    Meanwhile, the Pentagon's top lawyer will hold detailed discussions in London tomorrow on the cases involving British nationals held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    No final decisions were expected to be reached at the talks between British Attorney-General Peter Goldsmith and Pentagon general counsel William Haynes, who will discuss in greater detail US assurances concerning how the cases will be handled, a Pentagon spokesman said.

    "The meeting tomorrow will be the details of some of those assurances," Major Smith said.

    "I don't think tomorrow's meeting will be the final meeting where everything will be worked out. There will be at least another."

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