News LTD via AP file
Australian David Hicks, seen holding a bazooka in an undated photo taken in Kosovo, has been charged with conspiring with al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
updated 6/10/2004 4:11:47 PM ET 2004-06-10T20:11:47

David Hicks, an Australian held at the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been charged with conspiring with al-Qaida in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

Hicks is charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes, attempted murder by an unprivileged belligerent and aiding the enemy, the Pentagon said in a news release.

The military alleges Hicks attended several al-Qaida training courses at camps in Afghanistan, left the country, and returned after the Sept. 11 attacks to fight alongside al-Qaida and the Taliban.

His attorney said Hicks is innocent.

Defense attorney denies charges
“David Hicks has not violated any law of war and shouldn’t have been charged,” said Hicks’ military lawyer, Maj. Michael Mori. “It’s unfortunate these charges will never be tested before a fair and established justice system.”

Hicks, who was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001, is the third prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to face a military commission.

The U.S. government will not seek the death penalty in the case, the Pentagon said.

The military's announcement says that Hicks took an "advanced course in surveillance" while training in Afghanistan and that he conducted surveillance against the U.S. and British embassies in Kabul.

But Mori, Hicks' lawyer, said those countries have not had functioning embassies in Afghanistan for many years, so his client could only have scouted buildings that formerly served as the embassies.

Former cellmates of Hicks and the other Australian at Guantanamo, Mamdouh Habib, have alleged that both were beaten while in captivity.

Bush assures Australia's Howard about treatment
Australian Prime Minister John Howard said President Bush denied the Australian prisoners had been mistreated but promised that Washington would investigate the claims.

The U.S. government will not seek the death penalty against Hicks as a result of negotiations last year with Britain and Australia in which it it agreed not to seek the death penalty against their nationals.

Australia’s parliament also passed a law that would allow Hicks to serve prison time in Australia if he was convicted in the United States.

The Pentagon also said it would not monitor conversations between him and his attorneys, saying the circumstances of Hicks’ case do not warrant it.

Representatives of the Australian government and two members of Hicks’ family will be allowed to attend the trial, the Pentagon said.

In February, the Pentagon brought war crimes conspiracy charges against two men alleged to be associates of terror leader Osama bin Laden and said they will face the first U.S. military tribunals convened since World War II.

Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi, of Sudan, was allegedly a paymaster for bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, and Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al Bahlul, of Yemen, was a propagandist for bin Laden, according to an official list of charges released by the Pentagon.

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