Hicks 'abandoned' by Australia

Amnesty International has accused the Australian government of abandoning terror suspect David Hicks and doing nothing to ensure sure he gets a fair trial.



Amnesty secretary general Irene Khan last week wrote an open letter to Prime Minister John Howard as part of its campaign to have Hicks released from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where he has been held for five years.

Adelaide-born Hicks, 31, has been detained by the US since his capture among Taliban forces in Afghanistan in December 2001.

He had previously pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder, aiding the enemy and conspiracy, and was earmarked to appear before a US military commission.

The charges were struck out when the US Supreme Court in June ruled it was unlawful for the commission to try Hicks and other
Guantanamo Bay detainees.

But US President George W Bush has since signed controversial new legislation into law allowing revamped military commissions to proceed.

Symbol of injustice
Ms Khan said Amnesty was concentrating on the Hicks' case because it had become a symbol of injustice and the impunity which the US military prison had come to represent.

"He's not one man ... (he's a) symbol of injustice and the impunity and non-accountability that Guantanamo has come to represent," she told ABC radio.

"We are picking him because he has been now in Guantanamo for almost five years without being tried. He's not likely to get a fair trial in the US, which has just adopted a new law."

Hicks 'abandoned'
Ms Khan accused the Australian government of behaving outrageously in the Hicks' case.

"They have basically abandoned him. They have not taken any effort to ensure that he gets a fair trial," she said.

"They approved trial by military commission, which the US
Supreme Court has said violates American law as well as international law.

"So he should come home, he should get justice here in
Australia. Give him a fair go at Australian justice."

'Depressed and disorientated'

US military lawyer Major Michael Mori says Hicks is depressed and disorientated after being left in solitary confinement in Guantanamo Bay for seven months with the lights on 24 hours a day.

Major Mori confirmed his client has been confined to the one concrete room for about 22 hours of every day for the last seven months.

The military lawyer is in Australia to seek a meeting with Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and to conduct a cross-party briefing of federal MPs.

He also suggested Hicks had been subject to sleep deprivation, an action defined as coercion rather than torture by Mr Ruddock.

"There was no valid reason given why he was placed in solitary."

Asked if Hicks was close to breaking, Mori said he hoped the former jackaroo was not.

"We're doing everything we can. We try to get down there as quickly as possible and try to get books through for him, but it does take some time."

But the reality, Major Mori said, was that Hicks was in a terrible mental state.

"I went down and spent my birthday with him at the beginning of
October," Major Mori said.

"I see the changes in him, a sense of depression (and) I think that's what they're probably shooting for: they want to break him, they don't want him to resist."

Major Mori said a possible explanation for the solitary confinement could be that Hicks had complained.

"The day before he was put in solitary, he met with Australian consular (officials) and complained, things that were happening to him and also what he had seen. The next day, he was put in solitary confinement."

Hicks, Major Mori said, was now refusing to meet with consular officials.

"They (guards at Guantanamo Bay) have trained him that if he doesn't talk, if he doesn't complain then he doesn't get punished."
Source AAP

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