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SLUG: 2-321694 Australia / Guantanamo Prisoner
TITLE=AUSTRALIA / GITMO PRISONER L-ONLY
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HEADLINE: Australia: No Plans to Charge Freed Guantanamo Bay Detainee
INTRO: Australia says it is not likely to take legal action against one of its citizens who is being released from the U.S. military detention in Guantanamo Bay. This, despite having strong suspicions that Mamdouh Habib - a former Sydney taxi driver - has terrorist connections. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.
TEXT: Mamdouh Habib will return to Australia a free man. He will, however, be closely monitored by police and intelligence services.
Mr. Habib - and Egyptian-born Australian citizen - is being released without charge after three years in U.S. military custody in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. /// OPT /// The Pentagon recently estimated that only about a quarter of the suspected terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay have any intelligence value. /// END OPT ///
The Australian government remains convinced that Mr. Habib is not entirely innocent.
Australia's Attorney-General Philip Ruddock says Mr. Habib remains a security interest, as there are real suspicions he trained with the al-Qaida terrorist network and knew of the attacks in New York and Washington in 2001.
/// RUDDOCK ACT ///
"It remains the strong view of the United States that, based on information available to it, Mr. Habib had prior knowledge of the terrorist attacks on or before September 11, 2001."
/// END ACT ///
As part of his release, Canberra has accepted responsibility for preventing Mr. Habib from engaging in any terrorist activities in the future.
Mamdouh Habib was arrested in Pakistan in 2001, accused of training with al-Qaida. New counter-terrorism laws were introduced in Australia the following year. They're not retroactive and cannot be used to prosecute the former taxi driver.
/// OPT /// Mr. Habib was taken to Guantanamo Bay in 2002, where's been held ever since. /// END OPT ///
His lawyer, Stephen Hopper, says the allegations against Mr. Habib are 'ridiculous' and lack evidence.
Mr. Habib's wife, Maha, welcomes her husband's release after four tough years for her and their four children.
/// MAHA HABIB ACT ///
"The thing is I'm really, really upset and fed up because everyone kept saying 'terror suspect.' And I've said that from the beginning that my husband was an innocent person and thank God's given me this chance to prove that my husband is innocent."
/// END ACT ///
It is not yet clear when Mamdouh Habib will return to Sydney.
/// REST OPT ///
A second Australian being held in Guantanamo Bay is expected to face a military tribunal sometime this year. David Hicks, a former kangaroo hunter, has been accused of conspiracy to commit war crimes, attempted murder and helping the enemy.
American officials have insisted that he fought alongside al-Qaida-allied Taleban forces in Afghanistan. It is alleged he fired on U.S. and coalition troops during their invasion in late 2001. (signed)
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