'Elated' to be in solitary confinement in Adelaide

David Hicks, in orange-red overalls, is escorted from a chartered jet at Adelaide's Edinburgh Air Force Base on his way to Yalala Labour Prison to serve out his sentence.

David Hicks, in orange-red overalls, is escorted from a chartered jet at Adelaide's Edinburgh Air Force Base on his way to Yalala Labour Prison to serve out his sentence.
Photo: AAP

Penelope Debelle, Adelaide
May 21, 2007

MORE than seven years ago, David Hicks, then 24, left Adelaide as a Muslim convert on his way to Pakistan to support the cause of Islam.

Just before 11am yesterday, he was home again escorted in the back of a van by motorcycle police, prison officers and a high-security response squad.

In Cuba's Guantanamo Bay, where he was held for almost 5 years by US authorities who declared him a prisoner in the war on terror, he spent most of his time in solitary confinement.

In Yatala Labour Prison, in Adelaide's northern suburbs, he will also be in a small cell by himself, allowed out for exercise for one hour a day before his release in late December possibly in time to be reunited with his family for the New Year.

The dramatic return of the former Taliban fighter and convicted supporter of terrorism was not lost on Hicks, now 31, who landed at the RAAF base at Edinburgh, north of Adelaide, at 9.50am Adelaide time after a secretive 24-hour flight from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

"He did make the rather amusing comment there are not too many prisoners who get a world trip between stretches," Hicks' civilian lawyer for the past two years, David McLeod, said.

Hicks was grateful to be a prisoner of the Australian Government, after years as a prisoner of the US Government, a situation that, in the end, embarrassed both governments.

Mr McLeod said Hicks stayed awake for most of the flight, which left the military base on Friday night Cuban time, relishing what was for him his first taste of freedom since he was arrested in Afghanistan in late 2001 and taken into US custody.

"In the last 5 years he hasn't walked in a straight line for more than about 10 metres," Mr McLeod said. "Just the actual getting onto a plane and feeling relatively free and being able to talk and enjoy the moment he has been very grateful for that."

Hicks could see Adelaide from the air and seemed elated to be home.

"I can only talk about the look on his face, and it was a clear look of relief, joy, that he was back in the land of his countrymen," Mr McLeod said. "Something that should have happened a long time ago." Mr McLeod portrayed Hicks as a repentant, co-operative prisoner interested in ecology, zoology and the environment. That was one image. The South Australian Government presented another condemning him as consort of Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda, warning against giving him hero status or treating him as a celebrity.

"David Hicks is a very foolish young man at best, an extremely dangerous man at worst," Deputy Premier Kevin Foley said. "He should be seen for what he is, someone who chose to openly assist al-Qaeda and terrorists to do great damage to people in the West." The Federal Government, which faced an intense public and political campaign to bring the Australian citizen home to serve time, was also insisting that the former jackaroo and father of two remained a security risk.

"This is somebody who was not just passing through Afghanistan on a backpacker's holiday and happened to meet someone from al-Qaeda and just said g'day to him," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said. "This is someone who was actively involved in al-Qaeda."

The South Australian Government wants a control order placed on Hicks to monitor his movements after his release, expected on December 29.

The Australian Federal Police is yet to confirm whether it would seek an order, but indicated that discussions were under way to ensure community safety.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock reiterated that a US requirement that Hicks not talk about his detention for at least 12 months was unenforceable, although Australian law meant he could not profit by his crimes. "We are of the view that he is free, once he's concluded his penal servitude, to speak as he wishes but not to profit," he said.

Mr Foley said both the state and federal governments would introduce legislation if there was any possibility of Hicks selling his story.

But Mr McLeod ruled out Hicks profiting from his crimes, at least for another 10 months. He said Hicks may want to talk about his experience in the future but for now he wanted to put the past behind him and would respect the gag order agreed to as part of a plea deal.

"He simply wants to get on with his life," Mr McLeod said. "He has no intention of selling his story or profiting in any way from his story. He wants to be accepted back in Australia as an ordinary citizen."

He would not speculate on whether Hicks could evade the gag by speaking through his father. "I think ultimately he may want to tell his story but he doesn't want to in the next year," he said.

He defended Hicks as a person who had come back to Australia to do his time and wanted to put the past behind him. "He is aware of his notoriety," he said. "He is not proud of his notoriety."

Hicks, who returned wearing vivid orange-red Yatala prison clothing issued to him at Guantanamo Bay, was able to relax on the flight and was treated kindly by the officers on board.

"He watched a movie for the first time in 5 years," said Mr McLeod.

Hicks was escorted back by two prison officers, two AFP officers and a medical officer.

He was restrained but Mr McLeod would not confirm if he was handcuffed. "He was restrained in his seat," he said. "It was quite a flexible arrangement that didn't worry him."

Once off the plane, Hicks was cleared through customs and taken to Yatala, where was showered, searched and entered the system with a "high 1A" maximum-security rating.

He will be in the high-security G division of Yatala prison in accordance with national guidelines for prisoners who present a risk to national security.

The prison will establish a profile of Hicks within 48 hours, which should clear the way for a visit next weekend from his family, including his father, Terry Hicks.

"But after how long we've waited, what's another week," said Terry Hicks, who waged a concerted campaign for his son.

Only non-contact visits will be permitted, and all communication other than with his lawyer will be monitored.

Hicks yesterday abandoned all outstanding legal action, including a Federal Court challenge to the Federal Government over the exercise of its duty of citzenship, and an appeal in the UK contesting its revocation of his British citizenship.

As part of the legal appeal, Hicks' lawyers filed an affidavit in which Hicks detailed alleged physical and mental abuse by the US military in the time after he was taken prisoner by the US and before he arrived at Guantanamo Bay. By dropping the action, Hicks withdraws the claims of abuse.

"David wants the Australian public to know he does not plan to launch any challenge to his ongoing incarceration here in Australia, and that he has instructed me to discontinue all current court actions," Mr McLeod said. "All he wants to do now is to become a regular prisoner."

Mr McLeod said Hicks was heavily institutionalised after his time in Guantanamo Bay, and he would access social welfare, psychological and educational facilities Yatala had to offer.

"It is fair to say that after 5 years in the Western world's most notorious prison, he has become institutionalised," he said, without detailing Hicks' symptoms.



David Hicks leaves for Pakistan.



Hicks handed to US forces in Afghanistan after being captured by the Northern Alliance.



JANUARY 14, 2002

Then attorney-general Daryl Williams says Hicks is a terrorist and one of the world's most dangerous people.

MARCH 21US president George Bush issues Military Commission Order No. 1, setting rules for military commissions to try the detainees.





NOVEMBER 8The US District Court for the District of Columbia halts proceedings in one Guantanamo Bay case, effectively stopping all commission proceedings.



The US Supreme Court strikes down as unlawful the Bush Administration's military commissions, which were

not authorised by Congress. Charges against Hicks voided.


Hicks signs affidavit saying he has been "beaten before, after, and during interrogations". Says he has been deprived of sleep as a matter of policy, forcibly injected with unknown sedatives and beaten while under their influence.

AUGUST 25Hicks pleads not guilty to all charges before a US military commission.


US President George Bush signs legislation revamping the miliary commissions.


Hicks refuses a telephone call from his family, prompting his father, Terry Hicks, to express fears his son is at breaking point.




Hicks sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty. All but nine months of the sentence are suspended.

MAY 20Hicks returns to Australia, and transported to Yatala Labour Prison.

Hicks charged with providing material support for terrorism. A draft charge of attempted murder is struck out. Hicks charged with conspiracy, attempted murder and aiding the enemy. US Marine Corps lawyer Major Michael Mori assigned to represent Hicks.Hicks transported to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.