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"Innocent" Hicks seeks apology


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David Hicks’ lawyer says his client would appreciate an apology and compensation, after a United States government admission he is innocent.

Hicks pleaded guilty in 2007 to providing material support for terrorism, but his supporters and legal team have argued he only did so under threat of torture.

Lawyer Stephen Kenny said the legal appeal team had been told the US government did not dispute Hicks’ innocence and believed the conviction was not correct.

Kenny said the former Howard government’s support for the Guantanamo Bay facility where Hicks was held was “a serious error” for a country that prided itself on democracy and the rule of law.

“I’m sure David would appreciate an apology at the very least, and I’m sure he’d appreciate some compensation,” Kenny told ABC television on Friday.

Kenny said he expected to hear within a month whether the conviction will be formally quashed by the US military commission.

He is taking heart from the case of fellow Guantanamo Bay detainee, Noor Muhammed, who had charges against him dropped and his conviction withdrawn this month.

“The United States government is saying ‘although he’s innocent, he signed this agreement not to appeal and therefore the court has no jurisdiction to consider it and secondly, as a matter of contract law, the court should hold David to his bargain’,” Kenny said.

“The difficulty the government has is that contract law has nothing to do with this case and the second problem they have is the military commission can determine its own jurisdiction, and of course they have jurisdiction to consider this matter.

“So we have no doubts that the military commission, following the Noor case, will make a ruling now that David Hicks’ conviction should be set aside.”

Adelaide-born Hicks was 26 when he was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 by the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, which believed he was fighting for al-Qaeda.

He was held in the US-run jail in Cuba until 2007, when he pleaded guilty to providing material support for terrorism and was sent to Adelaide’s Yatala Prison to serve the rest of his seven-year sentence.

He was released under a control order later that year.

Former Labor shadow attorney-general Kelvin Thomson said the Howard government had let down Hicks.

“I have always believed that David Hicks’ guilty plea did not make him a guilty man,” Thomson said on his blog.

“He had been detained in Guantanamo Bay in solitary confinement for five and a half years with no recourse to a fair trial.”

Thomson said former foreign minister Alexander Downer did little to secure a fair trial for Hicks.

“It was weak and unworthy – more lapdog than national government,” Thomson said.

In December, Mr Hicks heckled Attorney-General George Brandis at a human rights award ceremony in Sydney.

Comment was being sought from Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Senator Brandis.


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