December 9, the fifth anniversary of David Hicks' capture by the US, will be marked by national protests calling for his immediate return.
In Melbourne, the demonstration is being hosted by Civil Rights Defence, Amnesty International and Liberty Victoria, and will feature speakers including Lex Lasry QC, Les Thomas (Jack's brother), Michelle O'Neil (textile and footware union) and Rob Stary (lawyer and civil libertarian). Major Michael Mori, Hick's US lawyer, will address the rally via a link-up from the US.
The Sydney protest, which is being organised by Justice for Hicks and Habib and the Sydney Stop the War Coalition, has been given support by, among others, Fair Go for David, Justice Action, the CFMEU, Islamic Friendship Association, the Socialist Alliance, NSW Greens Senator Kerry Nettle, ALP MP Daryl Melham, Dr Tim Anderson and the Australian Lawyers Alliance.
Public opinion has turned against the Howard government's abandonment of Hicks, and the government is on the defensive. Even senior lawyers are criticising PM John Howard, Alexander Downer and Philip Ruddock for making themselves complicit in torture. As Geoffrey Robertson QC was quoted in the August 17 Melbourne Age as saying: "There must come a point at which Australian law officers who wilfully authorise or approve an unfair and irregular trial of an Australian citizen become complicit in a grave breach of international law."
Canberra has also abandoned established principles of justice for all with its "anti-terror" laws, and the treatment of individuals charged under those laws. Just as Hicks is being used as a political scapegoat in Bush's "war on terror", so too are Jack Thomas and the Melbourne 13.
Hicks has not contravened any Australian law, and is being tried under spurious laws made up by the Bush administration. Thomas is clearly no terrorist, yet he was convicted under Howard's new laws because they allow for the conviction of people who are no threat. The "Melbourne 13" are charged with constituting a terrorist organisation, yet there is no evidence of them planning a terrorist act.
Demanding and securing the return of Hicks is a critical step of the fight to defend civil liberties and principles of justice.
[Colin Mitchell is an activist with Civil Rights Defence, Melbourne. See calendar listings on page 31 for protest details in other cities.]