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http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/2007 ... .G8EmUIQskujAJvaA8F
Hicks pleads guilty to terror charge after 5 years in Guantanamo
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (AFP) - Australian David Hicks has pleaded guilty to a charge of supporting terrorism before a US military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay, more than five years after he was detained in Afghanistan.
Looking somber with his hands clasped in front of him, Hicks, 31, stood beside his US military lawyer who entered a guilty plea to the charge of providing "material support for terrorism."
The plea late on Monday came a day after defense lawyers said Hicks was weighing a possible plea deal that could get him out of the prison for "war on terror" detainees at the remote US naval base in southeast Cuba.
"This is the first step towards David (Hicks) returning to Australia," David McLeod, an Australian defense lawyer for Hicks, told reporters afterward.
A former horse trainer in the Australian outback who converted to Islam, Hicks had been portrayed by the prosecution as an aspiring holy warrior trained by Al-Qaeda and as a restless youth by his family.
The Hicks case has became a major political issue in Australia. Its conservative government, which had lobbied Washington to expedite the trial, welcomed the plea but complained that the legal process had taken too long.
"I'm pleased for everybody's sake that this saga has come to a conclusion," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
But he added: "My view was always that the legal process had just taken far too long."
Defense lawyers say the Australian government had pushed much harder on the case in the past year after coming under mounting criticism at home over the issue.
Downer said that Hicks would be back in Australia soon under a deal between the two governments.
"We have an arrangement with the Americans whereby he can serve any residue of his sentence in an Australian prison," he added.
Hicks was accused of training at an Al-Qaeda camp in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, and allegedly volunteering to fight alongside Taliban forces during the US-led invasion in 2001.
He was the first detainee to be charged before the new tribunals, which were reconstituted under a controversial new law after a previous tribunal system was tossed out by the US Supreme Court last year. And Hicks is the first detainee at Guantanamo to be convicted by US authorities.
He pleaded guilty to the overall charge of supporting a terrorist organization but pleaded not guilty to a provision that alleged he had conspired to commit specific crimes, defense lawyers said.
Hicks entered the plea only hours after a visit with his sister and father, Terry Hicks, whom he had not seen since August 2004.
His father said earlier it was an emotional meeting with his son who he said looked "bloody terrible."
Hicks faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for the charge but prosecutors said they would not seek a life term.
Colonel Morris Davis, the chief prosecutor for the tribunals, said the five years Hicks has spent in Guantanamo as well as his guilty plea would be mitigating factors in determining his sentence.
And he denied there had been a plea deal, saying: "I wouldn't describe it as that, I would describe that the accused has elected to enter a plea of guilty to a specification of a charge."
The guilty plea from Hicks does not yet close the chapter on the case.
Under the tribunal rules, which resemble a US courts martial, the defense and prosecution must reach agreement on the precise details of what Hicks has pleaded guilty to and the judge must ensure Hicks understands the facts of the charge.
A panel of military officers, the rough equivalent of a jury in a civilian court, will then determine his sentence, possibly by the end of the week.
Human rights groups said the guilty plea raised concerns that tribunals and the prison represented a "coercive" process, and that Hicks may have believed he could not receive a fair trial.
Two Australian political parties also slammed the proceedings.
The leader of the Greens Party, Senator Bob Brown, said Hicks made "simply a plea for release, for exit from the inhumane Guantanamo gulag."
The Australian Democrats called the guilty plea "a desperate act by a desperate man" who "will come back as a guilty man who has never had a fair trial."
A white, Australian Taliban! Wow!
Now there's Australian missionaries giving for free 100000 bibles for Iraq orphans, a massive 'stolen generation' again to deny their ancestry and tradition.
Then the opponents hit it back by recruiting a white as follower.
I must admit, Huntington and its "Clash of Civilizations" already began, and it will broaden to the extent current western leadership won't be able to counter.