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Liberal Members are pleased with developments in David Hicks' trial.

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Wednes day 28 March 2007

Liberal Members are pleased with developments in David Hicks' trial


TONY EASTLEY: The treatment of David Hicks had been shaping up as an election issue here in Australia, but his guilty plea, and the likelihood that he will soon return to Australia to serve out any prison sentence, is welcome news to some federal MPs.  


From Canberra, Peta Donald reports. 


PETA DONALD: In recent months there've been at least a dozen Coalition MPs and senators who've gone on the record to say that David Hicks should be given his day in court, and soon. They haven't been happy with the United States for detaining him for more than five years without trial. 


Danna Vale was one of the first Liberal MPs to call on the Prime Minister to do more for David Hicks. Leaving a dinner in Canberra last night, she seemed pleased with developments at Guantanamo Bay. 


DANNA VALE: If David Hicks was happy to do a guilty plea, and if it is that he will actually come back to Australia, I think that's a good outcome for David Hicks. 


PETA DONALD: How do we know that he didn't make that guilty plea under coercion because he was desperate to come home? 


DANNA VALE: It was still a decision that was in his court to make, and I think we have to respect that. 


PETA DONALD: So you're pleased with the outcome? 


DANNA VALE: I'm pleased if this is the interests of justice, and I think it is. David had advice from very good lawyers, he had some very good lawyers here in Australia, and I'm sure they would have given him the best possible advice, and I'm sure he's followed that. 


PETA DONALD: Another Liberal MP who's been critical of the treatment of David Hicks is Warren Entsch. 


(To Warren Entsch): You've been calling for him to return to Australia, though, now it looks like it might happen. 


WARREN ENTSCH: I'm calling for the trial to take place, it's happening now, we'll see what happens. 


PETA DONALD: Are you satisfied that he's receiving justice? 


WARREN ENTSCH: Well, it's started to happen, let's see at the end of it. 


PETA DONALD: Does it take the heat out of this as an election issue? 


WARREN ENTSCH: I don't know, let's see what happens. 


PETA DONALD: Other Liberals told AM it's too early to say if justice is being done for David Hicks. They're all too aware of anxiety in their electorates about his case, and hoping that if Hicks is returned to Australia to serve a possible prison sentence, it will take the heat out of an election issue. 


Like the minor parties, the Law Council of Australia remains scathing of the system that's extracted David Hicks' guilty plea. Its President, Tim Bugg, argues it says nothing about the Australian's guilt or innocence. 


TIM BUGG: It could be interpreted by many as simply a pragmatic way of trying to escape what has been no doubt an appalling situation, five and a half years almost of detention, solitary confinement, and that could be the explanation for it. 


TONY EASTLEY: Law Council of Australia President, Tim Bugg, ending Peta Donald's report.