Supporters of former Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks have slammed the July 21 announcement that Australian government lawyers will try to prosecute Hicks under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The Department of Public Prosecutions has begun legal proceedings to seize the earnings of his 2010 book, Guantanamo: My Journey. In 2007, Hicks pleaded guilty to the charge of “providing material support to terrorism”. He says he agreed to the charge after duress and prolonged torture by his US military captors.
The Justice Campaign, a coalition of people that support transparency and fairness for the former detainee, said the move was “a diversion” from the urgent need to investigate Hicks’ claims that he was tortured in Guantanamo.
The Justice Campaign patron, former NSW Liberal opposition leader John Dowd, said: “David Hicks has not been convicted of a crime in Australia. He has not been convicted of an offence under US law. There is no basis for removing any profits from the sale of his book.”
Another Justice Campaign spokesperson, Stephen Kenny, said: “This is a blatant move to shift the focus of the Australian government’s responsibility to thoroughly and openly investigate torture allegations. David did not have a trial, let alone a fair one.”
In a July 25 interview, the former chief prosecutor of military commissions at Guantanamo, Colonel Morris Davis, told Truthout.org’s Jason Leopold he thought Hicks was prosecuted as a “favour” to the Australian government, then led by John Howard.
“Reasonable people could look at this [case] and see this was a favor for an ally,” Davis said.
“I don't think the facts are in dispute: to make this case go away it had to get done quickly. If there was an arraignment, then a trial would have likely been set for the fall [of 2007], about two months before Howard would have faced the voters.”
Davis implied Hicks should not have been charged at all: “It was a terrible case. We told the world these guys are the ‘worst of the worst’. David Hicks was a knucklehead. He was just a foot solider, not a war criminal.
“But when Congress passed the Military Commissions Act they authorized prosecuting material support, which is what Hicks was charged with, as a war crime. You could prosecute everyone at Guantanamo under that theory.”
[In Sydney, a “Hands Off David Hicks” protest will take place at 8.30am on August 3 outside the NSW Supreme Court, 184 Phillip St, city. For details phone Sophie 0406 794 103 or Pip 0412 139 968.]