Hopes firm for Hicks release

Britain’s High Court directed the United Kingdom government to register Hicks’ British citizenship.

Hicks’ supporters believe that if he is recognized as a British citizen, the Foreign Office will remove him from US military detention.

The British government in the past demanded the release of nine other Britons once held in the US military prison in Cuba.

The 30-year-old has the right to British citizenship because his mother was born, and lived the early part of her life, in London.

Hicks has been held at Guantanamo Bay for nearly four years, after being seized in Afghanistan in 2001 in the wake of the September 11th attacks.

Talks with Britain

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Canberra has held informal talks with Britain over Hicks’ case, however did not press a particular point of view.

“The British will decide what they’re going to do themselves,” said Mr Howard.

“Obviously there’s been some discussion and some contact.”

He said it is still believed that Hicks trained with al-Qaeda, but cannot be tried in Australia as he has committed no crime under domestic laws.

Right to passport

The High Court ruled that Home Secretary Charles Clarke has “no power in law” to deprive Hicks of his citizenship “and so he must be registered”.

Hicks’ lawyers will now press the government to make arrangements for him to take the required citizenship oath and pledge.

They will then urge the Home Office to seek his release from US custody.

“We will be pushing for David to be registered as soon as possible for the Foreign Office to reassert the rule of law as they have done in the case of the other British nationals and to secure his release,” Hicks’ lawyer Stephen Grosz said outside court.

“I anticipate the Home Office will take some time to make arrangements for someone to go down to Guantanamo Bay to administer the oath to him.

While Mr Justice Collins gave the Home Secretary permission to appeal against his judgment, he refused to suspend his decision pending appeal.

This means the Home Office must proceed with Hicks’ registration or go the court of appeal before Christmas for a temporary stay.

A full appeal would not be heard until next year.

“We have won the major battle and they haven’t got many weapons left,” Grosz said.

Possible recall

Hicks’ US military lawyer, Major Michael Mori, said he expected the British government would now recall Hicks to the UK.

“We know that the US and the United Kingdom have an agreement that any British detainee will not face the military commission and we see the other nine detainees have all been released and returned to England and not prosecuted under British law,” Maj Mori told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

“I would expect Mr Hicks to receive the same treatment.”

Hicks’s British solicitor, Mr Grosz, played down fears Hicks could immediately be stripped of his British citizenship because of his alleged terror links.

“Once he’s registered as a British citizen he’s entitled to remain a British citizen and there is no power to take it away from him.”

Father hopeful

Hicks’ father Terry and his Australian-based lawyer David McLeod said they are hopeful that Hicks’ four-year ordeal had reached a turning point.

But Terry Hicks said he does not want to get his hopes up.

“I think we’ve still got a battle on our hands (although) I hope I’m wrong,” he told AAP.

“I’ve seen things change dramatically for David over the last four years. This is the first positive that has happened and I’m hoping now that the positives keep going.”

Even if Hicks is allowed to eventually return home, Terry Hicks is worried the Australian government may try to turn him away.

“John Howard has already intimated he doesn’t want him back until he faces the (military) commission,” he said.

Hicks will be told about the citizenship decision but Terry Hicks is unsure exactly when he will be notified.

“I think he’ll be over the moon (at the decision), in fact he’ll probably want to bat for England now,” Mr Hicks said.