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Labor advocates no trial for terrorism suspects.

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16 January 2004 004/2004


The Labor Party has effectively indicated it would allow two Australians detained on suspected links to terrorism, to walk free the Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said today.

“The Leader of the Opposition has stated that he would like David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib to be returned to Australia without facing trial under a US military tribunal, but he has not acknowledged the legal realities of that,” Mr Ruddock said.

“The Government has been advised that Mr Hicks and Mr Habib could not be prosecuted successfully in Australia in relation to their activities in Afghanistan or Pakistan under Australian laws that applied at the time.”

The activities on which they have been questioned, occurred before 1 July 2002, when the Government’s package of terrorism offences became part of Australian law.

The Government has also been advised by Australian agencies that both men trained with Al Qaida and they are facing possible breaches of US law and should be dealt with on that basis.

“Australians who breach the laws of foreign countries while overseas, have no automatic right to be repatriated to Australia for trial. If a foreign national committed a terrorist offence under Australian law, the Government would be reluctant to allow them to leave without facing a legal process,” Mr Ruddock said.

“In these circumstances, we accept Mr Hicks and Mr Habib could be tried by the US, provided that their trials are fair and transparent while protecting security interests. The Government believes that military commission processes will fulfil these criteria.

“The only way for Mr Hicks and Habib to be dealt with in Australia would be for the Opposition to seek retrospective legislation to make the offences under Australia’s terrorist laws relevant,” Mr Ruddock said.

Media Contact: Steve Ingram (02) 6277 7300 0419 278 715

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