Wed, Jul 30, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Australian says captured son is not into terrorism

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

The father of an Australian confined at Guantanamo Bay since his capture in Afghanistan almost two years ago, urged US officials on Monday not to try his son before a military tribunal.

Flanked by American and Australian civil liberties lawyers at a news conference here, the father, Terry Hicks, pleaded for Washington authorities to apply the same legal standards to his son, David Hicks, that were adopted in the case of John Walker Lindh.

Lindh pleaded guilty in federal court last year to aiding the Taliban and carrying explosives and was sentenced to 20 years in a civilian prison.

"If David is guilty of anything, let him be tried in a civil court," Terry Hicks said.

"If he's guilty, I accept that. But I don't think he's guilty of anything. David is an adventurer. He is not a terrorist," Terry Hicks said

David Hicks 27, was with a unit of Taliban fighters that Northern Alliance troops captured in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in late 2001 and turned over to US forces.

US officials have not said what they intend to do with Hicks, one of a handful of military detainees whose cases are particularly complex because they involve citizens of two close allies in the war on terrorism, Britain and Australia.

Last week, Australian and British officials separately announced that they had reached agreements with the US to ensure fair treatment for Hicks and two Britons also being held at Guantanamo Bay, the US Naval Base in Cuba.

In Hicks' case, Australian officials said the Americans have promised not to prosecute him on any capital offense. If he is convicted and sentenced to prison, he may be able to serve time in an Australian jail, under the accord.

Those points were greeted with scorn on Monday by Terry Hicks and the lawyers. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, called on Washington to let David Hicks speak to his father and a lawyer.

"They've been letting David essentially rot in Guantanamo for 19 months," Ratner said. "Our immediate demand is that David get access to an attorney right away."

Officials at the Defense Department, which has jurisdiction over the 680 detainees from more than 40 countries held at the base, did not return a call for comment on Monday.

At the news conference, Terry Hicks wore an orange jumpsuit that he said was similar to what his son wears in confinement.

He said that he had tried to learn more about why his son went to Afghanistan and what he did there, and that he had traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said he talked to a former Guantanamo detainee who told him that his son had developed a medical problem. He said he had been unable to obtain details about his son's condition.

"It's been a very hard, rough road," Terry Hicks said, "and I do need to speak to David eye to eye."

This story has been viewed 2462 times.
TOP top