Australian offered plea bargain at Guantanamo

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) – Australian David Hicks has grown his hair to chest-length so he can use it to cover his eyes from the lights that shine in his Guantanamo prison cell all night, one of his lawyers said.Hicks believes he will be convicted at his U.S. military war crimes tribunal at the base in southeast Cuba and he has not ruled out a guilty plea if it would get him home sooner, Australian attorney David McLeod told reporters.

“He doesn’t have a lot of confidence in the process,” McLeod said.

Hicks, 31, is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday at 1 p.m. EDT/1700 GMT on charges of providing material support for terrorism by fighting with al Qaeda in Afghanistan during the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

He was the first Guantanamo prisoner charged in the newly revised military tribunals created by the U.S. Congress after the Supreme Court struck down an earlier version of the war-crimes court that President Bush authorized to try foreign captives on terrorism charges.

McLeod and Hicks’ military lawyers met with him on Sunday and described him as eager to see his father and sister, who are due on Monday for the hearing.

In addition to his flowing locks, the former farm hand and alleged al Qaeda fighter had a full, bushy beard because “there’s been an issue about access to razors,” McLeod said.

Defense lawyers were trying to get him a shave before the hearing, he said.

McLeod and the chief prosecutor for the tribunals, Air Force Col. Moe Davis, said there had been discussions about a potential plea agreement under which Hicks would plead guilty in return for a reduced sentence.

HELD MORE THAN FIVE YEARS

Neither would comment on what terms had been discussed and McLeod said Hicks would continue fight the charges for now.

“There is nothing as yet that has been decided by David one way or the other,” he said. “All offers are on the table.”

The U.S. military accuses Hicks of supporting terrorism by attending al Qaeda training courses, conducting surveillance on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and fighting U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

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