Australia’s former long-serving Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks was finally a free man yesterday, when strict control orders placed on him following his release from prison were lifted.
Hicks, 33, who spent more than five years in the US prison in Cuba and was the first “enemy combatant” to be convicted by a US military commission, had been subject to the orders since being let out of an Australian jail almost a year ago.
But the orders — which required him to report regularly to police, limited his movements and imposed a curfew — expired at midnight. Australian police had said on Thursday that they would not seek to extend the restrictions, after an appeal by Hicks against the orders was made public.
His lawyer David McLeod said Hicks, who agreed to a plea bargain with US authorities that allowed him to complete his prison sentence in South Australia, could now get on with his life.
“I think he’s really still trying to come to terms with the fact that he is on the rehabilitation path,” McLeod told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Last month, Hicks appealed to live without the control order that forced the so-called “Aussie Taliban” to report to police twice a week and prevented him from leaving the country.
It also barred him from using landline or mobile phones, the Internet or e-mail without the police agency’s permission and meant he faced jail if he flouted the order.
“I don’t know what the future holds for me. The only thing I do know is that until the control order is lifted, I will not be able to get on with my life,” Hicks said in a video plea organized by lobby group GetUp.
The former kangaroo skinner was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001 and was initially accused of fighting alongside the Taliban against the US-led forces that invaded the country after the Sept. 11 attacks on the US.
He was sent to the US military’s Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba in January 2002 and was eventually charged with conspiracy, attempted murder and aiding the enemy, but those charges were later dropped.
He was allowed to return home to Australia in May last year to serve the remainder of his nine-month sentence after striking a deal with US military prosecutors under which he pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorism.
Hicks has not yet spoken publicly of his experiences in Afghanistan or Guantanamo.
“I’m still recovering from that ordeal. I’m not yet ready to explain what happened or why,” Hicks said in the video appeal.