Australia 'terror convict' set free

Ex-Guantanamo inmate David Hicks, convicted by US, completes jail term.

    Hicks, right, admitted training with al-Qaeda during his Guantanamo tribunal [AFP]

    The former kangaroo skinner admitted training with al-Qaeda and meeting its leader Osama bin Laden, whom he described as "lovely", according to police evidence given to the court.
     
    Restricted movement

    He was sentenced to seven years in prison in March, though all but nine months' prison time was suspended.

    Hicks did not speak to reporters as he left prison in what constituted his first public appearance since being captured.

    Hicks' supporters oppose the
    restrictions on his movements [AFP]

    However, in a statement released by his lawyer, he thanked those who helped get him out of Guantanamo Bay, including the Australian public, and promised to uphold conditions of his plea deal and avoid doing "anything that might result in my return there".

    Hicks will still be subject to a strict control order which includes a midnight-to-dawn curfew. He will not be allowed to leave Australia.

    Under a plea bargain reached with US military authorities, Hicks agreed to a gag order which stops him from talking about his experiences for a year, ending on March 26.

    He also forfeited any right to appeal against his conviction and any money offered for interviews could be confiscated under Australian law.

    Media reports last week said Hicks was unprepared for freedom, suffered agoraphobia and had retreated to solitary confinement in his Australian prison cell.

    No apology

    The Hicks case became a political issue in Australia where many activists and politicians criticised John Howard, the former prime minister, for allowing an Australian to spend years in a foreign prison without trial.

    Under increasing pressure, Howard raised the issue of Hicks with Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, when he was in Sydney earlier this year, and the tribunal proceedings against Hicks started soon afterwards.

    Kevin Rudd, Howard's successor, has recognised the plea deal and the strict conditions on Hicks' movements.

    But in 2006, Rudd described Hicks' imprisonment as a "national obscenity" and that the Guantanamo prison should be closed.

    No apologies

    Terry, Hicks' father, had said on Friday that his son would apologise for any wrongdoing he committed while in Afghanistan, but the statement contained no such apology.

    Asked about the omission, Terry Hicks said his son had served his time and had nothing to be sorry about.

    About 20 supporters cheered at Hicks' release on Saturday and held up signs that read, "Hicks is not a threat" - a reference to the strict controls on his movements.

    Terry Hicks gave no indication of where his son would live or any plans for the future.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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