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A US military commission at Guantanamo Bay recommended sentencing Australian detainee David Hicks to seven years in prison late Friday but all but nine months of that have been effectively suspended by a military judge under the terms of a plea agreement that was kept secret from the panel of military officers during its deliberations. Hicks is expected to be returned to Australia to serve his prison term within two months. He has already spent more than five years in US custody since being captured in Afghanistan.

Under the plea agreement, Hicks was required to state that he "has never been illegally treated" while being held as an enemy combatant by the United States and that his detention was lawful pursuant to the laws of armed conflict. Hicks is also prohibited from having contact with the media for a period of one year, is to not take any legal action against the United States for his treatment during his 5 year detention, and is required to turn over any profits from an eventual sale of his story to the Australian government.

Vincent Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, criticized the plea as an "to silence criticism and keep the facts of their torture and abuse of detainees from the public." Hicks is the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried under the new Military Commissions Act. Hicks' conviction is also the first by the tribunal.


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