PM ignored letter from Hicks

Mr Howard has not responded to the letter, in which the Adelaide-born man appeals for his freedom so he can quietly return to Australia to resume a normal life.

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“He knows that he has been foolhardy in being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Mr Hicks’s Adelaide-based lawyer David McLeod said.

“He’s had four and a half years (at Guantanamo Bay) to reflect on his position.

“He’s written a letter to the prime minister indicating that, if he’s returned to Australia, he would return quietly, with dignity, and get on with the rest of his life. That is what he hopes to be able to do.”

Mr Howard, who opted not to reply to the letter, said the United States was close to deciding what to do with Mr Hicks, who has been charged with training with al Qaeda.

Mr Hicks, held by the US at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba since 2002, was to be tried by US military commission, but the US Supreme Court last week ruled such commissions were unlawful.

“They’ll be letting us know very soon what their response is,” Mr Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

Meeting with Downer

Mr McLeod and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer met for an hour at Mr Downer’s office in the Adelaide Hills today, but the lawyer emerged without raised hopes.

“The chances of the government changing its mind look a little remote,” Mr McLeod said.

David Hicks pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, attempted murder and aiding the enemy at a US military commission hearing last year, but has not faced trial.

The US Supreme Court ruled last week the conspiracy charge was invalid under international law while Mr Hicks’s lawyers contest the other two charges.

“I indicated to him (Mr Downer) that, in my opinion, the charges were no longer in existence and that David Hicks was now simply a detainee,” Mr McLeod said.

But Mr Downer said the government remained firm on the view that he should be tried by the US.

“He should face a court, whether it’s a military commission, or a court martial, or a civil court. That is something the Americans are working through,” Mr Downer said.

Hicks has been detained by the US since his capture among Taliban forces in Afghanistan in December 2001.