updated 3/1/2007 11:53:40 AM ET 2007-03-01T16:53:40

The Bush administration has filed charges against David Hicks, an Australian citizen suspected of aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan and the first terrorism-war era detainee to be charged by the Pentagon under new rules for military commissions.

The decision was made even though officials of Australia already had asked the United States not to bring such charges. Australia has been a steadfast ally to the Bush administration in its war on terrorism.

Hicks is a former kangaroo skinner captured in Afghanistan in December 2001. He has been held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for more than five years without trial.

According to government officials and documents, the Defense Department will announce that Hicks is being charged with "providing material support for terrorism." Hicks would be have a trial in a special military tribunal, established in a law that Congress passed last year, rather than a civilian court. Opponents have vowed to challenge the constitutionality of the military tribunal proceedings.

An earlier formulation of such military tribunals was declared unconstitutional last year by the Supreme Court.

Sore spot with Australia
Hicks' legal status has been a sore spot for Australia. Last month, nearly half the members of Australia's Parliament signed a letter to the U.S. Congress appealing for help repatriating him.

The topic was also discussed this month in a meeting between Vice President Dick Cheney and Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Under growing public pressure, and with elections due later this year, Howard has begun pushing U.S. officials to deal with Hicks' case more quickly.

Last year, the Supreme Court said that the court system in place at the time for these detainees was illegal and violated international agreements on the treatment of military prisoners.

In the fall, Congress passed a law that outlined the rules for trying terrorism suspects; the system is intended to protect classified information and provides detainees with fewer rights than civilian or military courts.

According to a Pentagon official, who asked not to be identified because the announcement had not been made, the military is expected to file charges soon against another nine detainees.

Once formal charges are filed, a timetable requires preliminary hearings within 30 days and the start of a jury trial within 120 days at Guantanamo Bay, where nearly 400 men are held on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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