David Hicks's plea: 'Get me out of here'

Friday, February 2, 2007

Terry Hicks's son has been detained for five years, without trial, in a prison camp likened by some to the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Terry is central to the snowballing nationwide campaign to bring his son back to Australia. It now has government ministers running for cover: even Lurch-like Attorney General Philip-Ruddock is showing signs of discomfort — although more perhaps for the expose of his government's disgraceful record than for the abandoned Australian in Guantanamo Bay. "It's nice listening to Ruddock and [foreign minister Alexander] Downer sweat", Terry told Green Left Weekly.

Terry told GLW that the US prosecutor, Colonel Morris Davis, said it is likely that David will be charged with the same charges as those made by the military commission that was declared illegal by the US Supreme Court.

News of David's mistreatment, including being shackled and held in solitary confinement, is deepening the public revulsion at his imprisonment.

Terry said that the intimidation of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay is on the rise. David McLeod, David's Australian lawyer, has verified the mistreatment following his recent visit to see David. He told the Australian media that David's condition had deteriorated and that he was refusing to meet with consular officials because of the punishment he has been subjected to in the past following such meetings.

McLeod said that David had sent a letter to the Australian authorities that read, in part, "I'm not well, I'm not okay and yet you have not done anything for me in the past and the Australian government keeps saying I'm fine and in an acceptable situation …

"To speak with you and tell you the truth and reality of my situation would only risk further punishments. You are not here for me, but on behalf of the Australian government who are leaving me here. If you want to do something for me, then get me out of here."

Terry said that David's lawyers reported that posters of Saddam Hussein, with the noose around his neck, had been stuck around Guantanamo Bay prison, along with the message, in Arabic: "Because Saddam chose not to cooperate and not tell the truth, because he thought by lying he would get released, for that reason he was executed." Similar sorts of messages on flyers have been handed to the detainees.

"Displaying photos of condemned men to those who may be facing capital charges can only be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate and compel submission under a threat of death, and mentally torture an already abused detainee population", David's lead US defence lawyer, Joshua Dratel, was quoted as saying in a February 1 News.com.au report. He added that showing the photos and articles breached the Geneva Conventions designed to protect prisoners of war.

According to Dratel and Australian lawyer Michael Griffin, the photo display near the exercise area is "another vivid example of the coercive and dehumanising environment that exists at [Guantanamo Bay]". It demonstrates that the lessons of Abu Ghraib have not been learned, they said.

For Terry, it's more evidence that the US administration "has become more brutal than the regime they kicked out" of Iraq.

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