Guantanamo prisoners'
terrible plight highlighted

Terry Hicks, the father, chose to position the cage near the venue of a function attended by Prime Minister John Howard.

  

He said the cage was similar to his son David's accommodation at the US Camp X-Ray military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  David has been held there for 18 months without charge after being captured in Afghanistan.

  

Hicks said he was angry that the Howard government had done nothing to pressure Washington to return his son, an Australian national, to face court in his own country.  

The failure was all the bewidlering since Canberra was a key ally of the US in its invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, he said.

  

"It's frustrating when it comes to government, you're banging your head against a brick wall, no one wants to talk to us," he said. "This could be going on for another five years."

  

Hicks said the government had effectively washed its hands off his son but was giving consular access and legal support to drug dealers and other criminals.

 

Hicks’ lawyer Stephen Kenny said the government's failure to ask for David to be returned to Australia was disappointing as David had never been charged with any offence.

 

Protest sidestepped

  

Prime Minister Howard avoided the protest by slipping in through a side door.

  

Some 650 prisoners from 40 different countries are being held without trial at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay. They are accused of having links with al-Qaeda or Afghanistan's former Taliban government.

  

Washington classifies the prisoners as "enemy combatants", effectively denying them the protection of the Geneva Conventions on the rights of prisoners of war.

The uncertain status makes it possible to hold them indefinitely without trial.

  

A second Australian Mamdouh Habib is also being held at Camp X-Ray accused of links to al-Qaeda.