Saturday, December 29, 2007

Australian Taliban Detainee Hicks Goes Free

An Australian who was captured while fighting alongside the Taliban and later pleaded guilty to supporting terrorism has been freed from prison in Australia today.

David Hicks, who was captured in Afghanistan in December 2001, served more than five years at the Guantanamo prison. He was sent to Australia in March of this year to serve out his sentence, which has now been reduced to `time served' in a plea bargain.

When Hicks left South Australia's Yatala prison, he was met by his father and his lawyer and driven away in a civilian car with a police escort.

Hicks refused to speak to the media. Under his plea bargain deal, Hicks agreed to remain silent about his time in custody, to forfeit any right to appeal and agreed not to speak with the news media for a year from his sentencing date.

Hicks' incarceration in Club Gitmo was something of an issue in Australia with many Labour politicians criticizing former Prime Minister John Howard for not pushing to have him sent to Australia to finish his sentence.The new deal for his release is obviously one of the first fruits of the new Labour regime.

During his trial in Australia, a federal magistrate ruled that Hicks was a security risk because of the training he received in Taliban terrorist camps. The court was told he met Osama bin Laden at least 20 times, describing him as a "lovely brother" in letters home.

Even though he's now free, it's a kind of `probation.' Hicks has to report to police three times a week and observe a curfew. He also won't be allowed to leave Australia or contact anyone on a list of terrorism suspects for one year.

Hick's father, Terry had told the media that his son would release a statement apologizing for supporting terrorism and fighting against western forces. But the short statement Hicks released didn't have anything like that, but merely thanked those who had supported him during his prison term and agitated for his release.

Let's hope the Australians are keeping a close watch on him.

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