The foreign minister, Alexander Downer, says the plan for handling the cases of the two Australians detained at Guantanamo Bay is fair.


Mr Downer has made his remarks amid criticism from the families and their legal representatives but support from the Law Council of Australia.

A United States military commission will try David Hicks.

The case of Mamdouh Habib is still under consideration, but the Government has been assured of open trials for either man.

Mr Downer says, if the men were brought home, they could not be tried under Australian law and would have to be set free.

“I don’t know how people in Australia would feel having people who’ve trained with al-Qaeda going to the cinema and in the shopping centres of Adelaide — and one of them comes from Adelaide — or Sydney — the other comes from Sydney — sitting next to them and knowing that these are people who trained with the world’s most egregious terrorist organisation, that that was all right when we are at war with this organisation.”

Mr Downer says intelligence agencies have told the Government Mr Hicks and Mr Habib trained with the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation.

But he says the Government gained concessions that assure a fair process for them.

“In this particular case, they were, if you like, illegal combatants, as it’s defined in American law. We have, nevertheless and in spite of that, spoken to the Americans about a proposal for there being a military commission.”

The federal Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, says the men’s relatives cannot talk with the men until they are charged.

But he says he hopes they can talk soon.

“Once charges have been brought, there will be a capacity for telephone contact between detainees and their families, and there will also be, in the context of any trial, a capacity for family members to be present. I think up to two in each case as the trial proceeds.”

Comments are closed.