While all eyes have been focused on the terrible plight of David Hicks, Willie Brigitte has been convicted and sentenced in France, nine Muslim men are undergoing a committal hearing in Sydney, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has allegedly confessed to a multitude of terror attacks and calls to ban the Muslim group, Hizb ut-Tahrir, in Australia have become more strident. This is all cause for concern, not because of a sinister threat by “terrorists”, but from the government-driven “war on terror”.
Coalition leaders have had a rush of blood to the head over David Hicks. After five years of inaction, PM John Howard and foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer are trumpeting what a hard line they are taking with the George Bush administration to get Hicks back to Australia — after he is found guilty at a military commission of course!
According to former French intelligence security chief Alain Chouet, the terrorism-related charges against Willie Brigitte, who is being tried in France, are “weak”. Quoted in the February 5 Australian, he said Brigitte is a “person without importance whom the Australian authorities continue to play on to create fear”.
After five years of incarceration at Guantanamo Bay without trial, it is increasingly clear that David Hicks has committed no serious crime and that he is no threat. Yet, he is being held in a prison camp, often in solitary confinement, subjected to endless interrogations and physical and mental abuse to try and break his resistance to a guilty plea. Hicks is now in such a state that he cannot even bear to talk to his father on the phone.
David Hickss demonisation, and continued incarceration in Guantanamo Bay, helps the US and Australian governments promotion of its endless war on terror. The Australian government is keen for the US to prosecute Hicks rather than have him return home because he has done no wrong under Australian law.
It’s been more than five years since the first hooded, shackled men were brought to the US prison at Guantanamo and although not a single prisoner has been tried or convicted of any crime, more than 400 still remain, including David Hicks.
The case of Melbourne man Jack Thomas should be ringing alarm bells over the use of the so-called anti-terror laws in Australia. Thomas’ case demonstrates that these laws can be, and are being, misused for political purposes against someone who is not a terrorist.
Pressure is mounting on the federal Coalition government to bring David Hicks home. On January 2, the Australian Defence Force director of military prosecutions, Brigadier Lyn McDade, described the treatment of Hicks as abominable. A week or so later, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and PM John Howard said that they were concerned that Hicks had still not been tried, but that they were certain he would be charged in the next few weeks.
December 9, the fifth anniversary of David Hicks capture by the US, will be marked by national protests calling for his immediate return.
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