Hicks still in limbo

Two le­gal suc­cesses not enough for free­dom

Townsville Bulletin - - Gig Guide -

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

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