Last Update: Thursday, August 26, 2004. 3:30pm (AEST)
Pleading not guilty: Hicks will face trial on January 10.

Pleading not guilty: Hicks will face trial on January 10. (ABC TV)

Hicks's lawyers challenge tribunal's authority

The defence team of Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks has made 19 motions to the military tribunal hearing his war crimes charges, urging it to dismiss the charges.

Hicks has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder of coalition forces, aiding the enemy and conspiring to commit war crimes, which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

His defence team claims the charges should be dismissed for reasons ranging from the invalidity of the military commission and the failure to give US and foreign suspects equal treatment.

The United States last held such a commission in 1948.

Defence lawyers and rights groups have protested it is unfair because of the lack of appeal to an independent body and evidence restrictions.

Josh Dratel, the lead defence counsel, said: "This is a process that is completely unfathomable. It isn't found in the military, civil or international courts."

Major Michael Mori, Hicks's military lawyer, added: "We have never hidden from David that he is facing an unfair system resuscitated from the 1940s and his life and freedom is in jeopardy."

The response of the US military authorities, which are running the controversial commissions, will be announced on November 2.

The tribunal has set Hicks's trial date for January 10.

However, his lawyers are making a new attempt to launch civil action against the military commissions in US courts.

The lawyers also hope Australia will be able to take advantage of any future deal Britain makes with the US Government about the return of British detainees.

Four Britons are still held at Guantanamo and the British Government has reportedly refused to accept military commissions for its nationals.

-- AFP/Reuters