Last Update: Monday, September 6, 2004. 10:24am (AEST)
Hicks hearing

Australian terrorism accused David 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. (ABC)

Hicks's lawyer questions timing of Govt concerns

The lawyer for alleged Taliban suspect, David Hicks, has greeted with suspicion the Federal Government's concerns about the US military commission overseeing Hicks's trial.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Attorney-General Philip Ruddock have issued a statement saying that after the recent appearance of Hicks before the commission in Guantanamo Bay, the Australian Government wants to discuss improvements with US authorities.

The Government has instructed the Australian ambassador in Washington to raise a number of concerns with the Bush administration.

Stephen Kenny believes the Government is trying to pre-empt a report by the Australian Law Society's observer, Lex Lasry QC, who is due to release his assessment shortly.

"I don't know when that report's about to be released, but I suspect it would be coming out fairly soon," he said.

"I think that someone may well have leaked that report and they are attempting to get in and say 'we've fixed everything up and you don't need to worry about it'."

He describes the Federal Government's actions as a complete backdown.

Mr Ruddock says the Government is particularly worried about the lack of rules of procedure and how that could lead to uncertainty for both the prosecution and defence in preparing cases.

"It's our observations in relation to the preliminary hearing that suggest to us that some improvements are required," he said.

David Hicks's father is unmoved by the Federal Government's decision.

Terry Hicks hopes that his son will benefit from the intervention but is not optimistic.

He says the federal election campaign may have the triggered the intervention.

The federal Opposition says the Government's concerns for the fairness of the trial is an election stunt.

Labor shadow attorney-general Nicola Roxon is sceptical about the timing.

"For three years they've been ignoring this issue," she said.