Ex-Guantanamo inmate in book probe
Australia's government to consider lawsuit against former detainee David Hicks over possible profit from his new book.
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2010 10:50 GMT
Hicks was held in US custody in Guantanamo for more than five years before striking a plea deal in 2007 [GALLO/GETTY]

Australian police are considering whether former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks should be sued for any profits he earns from his new autobiography, in which he chronicles his five-year ordeal in the US-run prison facility.

A spokesman for Robert McClelland, the attorney-general, said on Sunday that the Australian Federal Police would have to investigate and provide federal prosecutors with a brief of evidence before they can decide whether to sue Hicks under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Police said in a statement that they are "considering whether there are grounds to investigate in relation to this matter".

Hicks, the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to plead guilty to a terrorism offence, was captured in Afghanistan by the US-backed Northern Alliance in late 2001. 

The 35-year-old ex-kangaroo skinner and outback cowboy was held in US custody at the military detention centre in Cuba for more than five years before striking a plea deal in 2007 that returned him home to Australia to serve a nine-month prison sentence.

In his book "Guantanamo: My Journey", which was released in Australia on Saturday, he writes that he only admitted to a charge of providing material support to al-Qaeda to escape Guantanamo.

'Unfair system'

Hicks said that his only options were to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit or to kill himself.

"To plead guilty was really saying that the system was unfair and I could never win, not that I ever provided support to a terrorist organisation," he wrote.

He also wrote that US authorities offered detainees inducements including illicit drugs and prostitutes to gain their co-operation.

He added that he had undergone military training in Afghanistan at a camp that Osama bin Laden visited, but denied it amounted to terrorist training.

Under Australian law, criminals can be sued for money that a federal court determines is proceeds from their crimes, including indirect profits from a book and movie deals.

It is unclear whether the law applies to Hicks, since be pleaded guilty before a US military commission, part of a justice system that has been widely criticised by lawyers and governments as grossly unfair.

Not guilty?

Judy Jamieson-Green, a spokeswoman for Hicks' publisher Random House Australia, declined to say whether the author would profit from his 465-page book, which retails in Australia for just $49.

"That's not something I'm commenting on. That's a private matter between Random House and David Hicks.

"All legal ramifications are obviously matters for David and his lawyers," she said.

Hicks, who lives in Sydney, could not immediately be reached for comment.

He wrote that as part of his plea bargain, he had agreed to give any profits he made from his story to the Australian government.

But a decision from the administration of Barack Obama, the US president,  to change the military commissions' rules with legislation in 2009 rendered "my conviction and subsequent plea deal, in the view of my US attorneys, null and void", Hicks wrote.

The book has so far only been released in Australia and New Zealand. Jamieson-Green declined to say how many copies have been printed.

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