David Hicks, Australian, today entered a plea of guilty in a US Military Tribunal to charges of providing material support to a terrorist organisation (Plea of Guilty From Detainee in Guantánamo). Without going into the fairness or otherwise of the trial process, the five year detention, the backdating of charges, the judge disqualifying two of Hicks’ legal counsel or whether or not Hicks was/is a terrorist, the most disappointing thing about all this has been the Australian Government of John Howard.
Hicks should have been brought back to Australia for trial, as the British prisoners were taken back to the United Kingdom. It was even more important to bring him back after Mandouh Habib had been released with no charge. The Australian government disgracefully stood by and did nothing. Whether or not Hicks is truly guilty matters not now. What matters is that an Australian government that had the power to do something in this case did nothing. Habib was released in early 2005 after having been captured in 2001. He was released with no charges being made – held for over three years without charge. Hicks has been held for 5 years until charges were laid.
Hicks was not even captured directly by American forces but rather captured by Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, a private warlord with a private army. Hicks was then held, interrogated and allegedly tortured whilst the Australian government stood by and did nothing. As I said at the start, I do not wish to comment on the trial, the charges, the system he was detained and prosecuted under. I do not want to speculate on whether or not he was a terrorist, what is shameful is the way the Australian government stood by and did nothing.
The Australian government gives more support to Australians convicted of drug smuggling and dealing in drugs overseas than it has given to Hicks.
In the past few years Australia has lost its heart. Today it lost its soul.