The Guardian 4 April, 2007

Hicks trades Guántanamo for guilty plea

David Hicks is expected back in Australia within two months but will remain incarcerated in Australia until the federal elections are out of the way. After more than five years Guantánamo Bay, held in solitary confinement with very few hours of sunlight, and physically and mentally tortured, it is not surprising that he was prepared to enter into a plea bargain to find a way out of that hell hole. Terry Hicks is convinced that his son pleaded guilty to get out of Guantánamo Bay.

For those five-plus years he was denied any semblance of justice, even the legislation establishing the US military commission process specifies that it is not subject to Geneva conventions. Hicks has pleaded guilty to part of the single charge remaining against him — providing material support for terrorism.

Prime Minister John Howard is thrilled that Hicks is coming home and hopes that the issue will go away now. It was certainly shaping up to be an embarrassing election issue for the Coalition government, especially as more people became aware that Hicks could have been returned to Australia years ago — all it required was a request from Howard or Attorney General Philip Ruddock.

"Because unlike other governments, ours has failed to stand up for its citizen’s basic human and legal rights — and that matters more than what kind of man David Hicks is or isn’t", the GetUp team said in a statement. The GetUp team is a community campaign group which has done a great deal to expose the treatment of Hicks and win community support for his release from Guantánamo.

"The Federal Government has diminished Australia by legitimising an unfair and illegal system, by allowing an Australian, guilty or innocent, to be imprisoned year after year without trial despite serious reports of mistreatment and abuse; by failing to do what America, its allies and even its adversaries around the world did, which is to say ‘no citizen of ours will be treated this way’.

"Our Government should stand shamed, not smirking. And to help remind our Prime Minister where the Australian people stand, we’ve got a delivery planned: 17,000 postcards from you [its email subscribers], plus 10,143 directly from voters in the PM’s own electorate of Bennelong, demanding justice for David Hicks. Collected in just ten hours by GetUp members, that’s roughly one in every eight voters in Bennelong; people who, regardless of their opinion of David Hicks, have written directly to John Howard asking for justice", the GetUp statement said.

"That’s because they, and we, understand something the Prime Minister apparently doesn’t — that the values of a civilised society, including the prohibition against torture and freedom from imprisonment without a fair trial, are bedrock... They’re part of what separates us from the dictators and thugs we condemn….

"From the beginning, this campaign has been about the values and rights of our democracy, and the power of people to defend those rights. It’s the community pressure that has shifted this debate, and we're not ready to let up just yet."

"We know what justice looks like, and we will not let those who claim to represent the values of our democracy forget", the GetUp statement concluded.

To support or obtain more information on the GetUp campaign, visit www.getup.org.au

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