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Australian hicks may have struck deal { December 6 2003 }

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Hicks may have struck deal, father fears
By Penelope Debelle
December 6, 2003

An Australian being held in Guantanamo Bay is so desperate to get home, his father believes he has made a plea bargain with US military authorities.

Terry Hicks said the handful of Red Cross mail he had received from his son, David, since he was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001 showed an increasing desperation and desire to be home.

"I think in David's mind getting home is there very strongly," Mr Hicks said yesterday. "He may have agreed to go along with something more minor as a way of getting home."

The Washington Post reported yesterday that US authorities had chosen to assign a legal team to Mr Hicks - the first of 660 Guantanamo Bay detainees to receive one - because they were close to reaching a plea deal with him. This would send a message that those who co-operated with the military tribunals would be rewarded, the paper said. It quoted US sources who said Mr Hicks had been co-operating with authorities for months, although a spokesman for the Pentagon, Major John Smith, said no formal agreement could be reached until Mr Hicks had a lawyer.

By pleading guilty to a lesser charge, Mr Hicks will avoid being tried by a miliary commission, but he could still serve a lengthy prison sentence. Under the terms of the agreement between the Australian and US governments, Mr Hicks would serve his sentence in Australia.

But an Adelaide civil rights lawyer, Stephen Kenny, warned that any deal US authorities struck with Mr Hicks forged under duress would not be admissible under law.

Mr Kenny, who intends to see Mr Hicks next week, said Mr Hicks had been moved to a different part of Cuba and was being held in solitary confinement inside a cage in a hut. This was not conducive to reasonable negotiations, he said.

"We would have to find out what charges the US was looking at for David before we could make any legal assessment of that," Mr Kenny said.

"Certainly we would expect that plea bargaining is one of the things being looked at."

Mr Hicks has been assigned a US Marine Corps lawyer, Major Michael Mori, to represent him. However, in a meeting with Major Mori this week, he said he wanted Mr Kenny to act for him.

According to Terry Hicks, his son had seemed well and had asked for cigarettes. "He hasn't smoked for a long while, but I suppose in a place like that you'd do anything," he said.

He said the next step was to gain telephone access, which the Federal Government indicated last week might be possible.

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