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The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) says David Hicks should be afforded real justice outside the US Guantanamo military system.

Coinciding with the visit of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the ACSJC has called upon the Australian Government to follow the lead of Commonwealth countries such as Britain and Canada, who have secured the release of their own nationals from detention at Guantanamo Bay.

Bishop Christopher Saunders, ACSJC Chairman, reiterated the Council’s position on the detention of David Hicks: “We call on the Government to work for this Australian citizen by seeking a proper trial before a non-military court or returning him to Australia.

“This situation has gone on for far too long.  Concerns about conditions at Guantanamo, the indefinite detention and the deficiencies of military trials should be a basis for action on behalf of Mr Hicks”, Bishop Saunders said.

The call follows growing pressure for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay facilities.  In February, a major UN Report recommended its immediate closure, with detainees to be brought before an independent and competent tribunal or released.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, have both called Guantanamo a legal anomaly that needs to end.  Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has voiced concerns that human dignity is not being respected in this prison.

Bishop Saunders said, “International momentum is growing for the US to close its facilities at Guantanamo Bay and to afford detainees basic justice.

“The Australian Government could play its part by advocating on behalf of its citizen with the same determination as governments including Britain and Canada, which would not have their nationals exposed to the inferior justice of the military commissions”, he concluded.

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