After a brutal five years mostly spent imprisoned in the now infamous US military jail at Guantanamo Bay, David Hicks will spend a maximum of nine months jail term home in Australia, with the rest of his seven year sentence suspended following a plea bargain.

Hicks was captured in Afghanistan allegedly fighting for the Taliban against the invading Coalition forces. The Taliban were at that time the legal government of the country, however repulsive their regime seemed to Westerners and more moderate Islamic countries.

Hicks seems to have been captured in a transport while unarmed by a Northern Alliance warlord, who later turned him over to the US military.

Australians have watched in disbelief as year after year has stretched out without Hicks coming to trial. Pictures of the conditions at Guantanamo Bay, of which the best that can be said is that his tiny cell appeared to be clean, have helped undermine any faith the public might have had in the US Military judicial process.

Allegations of physical and mental abuse have further swayed public opinion, and US Military officials have, on the whole, lacked credibility in TV interviews and statements.

Hicks’ original trial before a U.S. military commission was canceled following the Supreme Court ruling invalidating the constitutionality of the commission process. (Hamdi v. Rumsfeld). Many Australians felt Hicks should have been released at that point.

One serious charge after another was dropped, and the final charge of supplying “material support for terrorism” – to which Hick pleaded guilty – did not apply to him as a non-US citizen at the time that he committed the offence.

Clearly something of that is reflected in the sentence which “contrasts with the statements of the chief prosecutor Colonel Morris Davis who said earlier this week that his benchmark for Hicks’ crime of material support for terrorism was 20 years.” See:

http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/hicks-will-be-free-by-new-year/2007/03/30/1174761754698.html

Official Australian reactions to the news are mixed see:

http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/mixed-reactions-to-hicks-sentence/2007/03/31/1174761804155.html

But Australian Democrats senator Natasha Stott Despoja has probably got it right when she said “….Australians who wanted Hicks home would not be satisfied by what has happened. ‘I think most Australians today will be offended by the process,…This guy never had a chance in a process that was flawed from day one.’ ” See:

http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/highsecurity-prison-plan-for-hicks/2007/03/27/1174761470787.html

Angela Cockburn only blogs here.

cs

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