Hicks still in limbo
Two legal successes not enough for freedom
DAVID Hicks twice thought he’d be free.
But the year 2006 ended for Hicks much as his past five years have done — in solitary confinement in Guantanamo Bay, yet to face trial on terror charges.
Lawyers for the Adelaide-born man accused of training with alQaeda tried almost every trick in the book to get Hicks freed this year.
They won v a r i o u s l e g a l skirmishes, and the US military commissions set to try him were declared illegal, but Hicks remains in detention at the US military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
He has been there since January 2002, a month after being captured among Taliban forces in Afghanistan and sold by Northern Alliance militia to US forces for $15,000.
Hicks’ initial hopes of freedom came after he won British citizenship, raising hopes the Brits would treat him as one of their own and press for his release from Guantanamo Bay.
They didn’t. Instead, Britain’s Home Office appealed the citizenship verdict, which had been based on Hicks’ mother being British. The Home Office lost. But in its appeal, the office said Hicks told MI5 agents who interrogated him in 2003 that he received extensive training at c a m p s i n K a s h m i r a n d Afghanistan and met the late Abu Hafs, an al-Qaeda kingpin who prior to his death in 2001 was named by Osama bin Laden as his successor.
The British sent a letter to Hicks’ lawyers setting out why the Home Office was unwilling to grant Hicks citizenship, citing the interview Hicks had with MI5 in April 2003 in Guantanamo Bay.
‘‘Mr Hicks admitted . . . attending a (Lashkar-e-Toiba) training camp in Kashmir in around 2000 . . . attending the Al Farooq system of camps in Afghanistan in around 2001 . . . (and) receiving training in weapons and guerrilla warfare,’’ the letter said.
The letter said Hicks also had admitted ‘training with a number of UK nationals known to be Islamic extremists’ including Richard Reid, the ‘shoe bomber’ now serving a life sentence for trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with a bomb concealed in his shoe in 2001.
After losing its appeal, the Blair government refused to act on Hicks’ behalf and lobby for his release, as they had successfully done for other British citizens detained at Guantanamo Bay.
Hicks’ hopes of freedom must also have been raised in June, when the US Supreme Court ruled the military commissions were unlawful and breached Geneva conventions.
The Australian terror suspect had pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder, aiding the enemy and conspiracy before the commission in August 2004.
But those charges were struck out by the Supreme Court, which prompted fresh calls for Hicks’ release from his lawyers and supporters.
Instead, the US government rewrote the commission rules and Hicks was back to square one, detained without charge.
Lawyers for Hicks, 31, have now taken action in the Federal Court of Australia seeking to have him freed from Guantanamo Bay.
Hicks’ legal team appeared in the Federal Court in December in an attempt to get an order for the Australian government to demand US authorities free the former jackaroo as soon as possible.
But the court ordered they return on February 26 , when government lawyers will explain why they believe the court doesn’t have power to hear the case.
LOCAL SUPPORT . . . Frances Verrier, Cuan Petheram and Peter Hanley prepare banners for the David Hicks protest
SEPARATED . . . Terry Hicks (above) and son David (left), who has been detained without trial at Guantanamo Bay for five years