Sentenced To Seven Years For Meeting Osama Bin Laden And Fighting For The Taliban, For Two Hours
Back In Australia Within Weeks, Banned From Speaking To The Media For One Year
UPDATE : David Hicks' 7 Year Sentence Has Been Suspended.
Hicks will be transferred back to Australian within two weeks, and will serve nine months in an Australian prison.
Lawyers and politicians are claiming a "conspiracy" exists between the Howard government and the Bush government to remove the extremely controversial issue of David Hicks' treatment at Guantanamo Bay and why he was held for five years without trial, from the media agenda, as the Australian prime minister prepares for the coming federal election.
In even more remarkable news, claims have surfaced that Hicks' lawyers cut a special deal for the suspended sentence without the knowledge, or agreement, of the US military prosecutors, who were said to have been shocked when it was made public during last night's sentencing hearing that Hicks' would serve only nine months in an Australian prison, even though he admitted to training with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan after 9/11 and meeting with Osama Bin Laden.
David Hicks has admitted that he did take the side of the Taliban in the Afghanistan War, weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and that he did go to the front lines.
For two hours.
He then fled, catching a cab back to Pakistan. He was then captured by the Northern Alliance and sold for a bounty to American forces.
As part of his plea deal, which meant the US military prosecutors did not have to ultimately present evidence to back up their claims in a court, Hicks has admitted to a fleet of so-called terror-related charges. Lawyers have claimed that none of the claims made against him by the US Military prosecutors were crimes in Australia or the United States when Hicks first entered Guantanamo Bay in early 2002.
One of the more surprising bits of news some media are reporting from today's hearing is that Hicks has agreed to provide information on other alleged terrorists and will testify against them.
Presumably, Hicks has already given interrogators this information, sometime during the five years he spent in Guantanamo Bay.
Almost as interesting as the charges he said "Yes" to in last night's military tribunal were the charges Hicks denied, during the course of the plea agreement negotiations, which the prosecution were then forced to drop.
In exchange for dropping some charges and claims, the US Military prosecutors got their conviction and Hicks has been sentenced to seven years imprisonment, five years of which are expected to be considered as time already served in Guantanamo Bay.
Hicks will now be returned to Australia in less than 60 days, possibly as soon as next weekend, and will serve the remaining two years in a maximum security prison.
Hicks was asked by the US Military judge, Colonel Ralph Kohlmann, if it was true that he had "never been illegally treated by any persons in the control or custody of the United States" during his time in Guantanamo Bay. Hicks said, "Yes."
Hicks will now not be able to legally pursue charges against the US government or US Military for torture or illegal imprisonment after he is released from prison.
He has also been banned from speaking to the media for twelve months.
Under oath, Hicks admitted that he had trained with Al Qaeda, but the prosecution were forced to drop the reference "advanced" in reference to at least one training camp, that specialised in surveillance.The prosecution were also forced to drop the allegation that Hicks had met Richard "Shoe bomber" Reid in a training camp run by Al Qaeda, and another claim that Hicks was near, or in the company of, John Walker Lindh on the front line of the Afghanistan war.
Here's what Hicks admitted to :
* He heard a talk given by Osama Bin Laden, in Arabic, while at a training camp, and he told Bin Laden that there was a lack of "materials" written in English.Not exactly a stunning win for the prosecution, particularly considering the enormous trouble the US Military had in getting he hearings underway, after years of legal challenges, and a declaration by the US Supreme Court last year that Gitmo military tribunals were unlawful.
* He attended at least three Al Qaeda training camps in January, April and late 2001.
* He saw the September 11, 2001, attacks on a television while staying with a friend in Pakistan, and he had approved of the attacks.
* He had returned to Afghanistan after the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States, but he did not admit to having had "advanced knowledge" that terrorists were going to hit New York City and Washington, DC..
* When the US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan in October, 2001, he volunteered to fight with Al Qeada to support the Taliban. Hicks guarded a tank near Kabul Airport and spent a total of two hours on the front lines of the war, near Konduz.
* After two hours on the front line, Hicks then fled to Pakistan after selling his gun for the taxi fare.
Remarkably, the list of charges Hicks admitted to are almost identical to the story told by Hicks through his letters home to his family in the documentary 2004 documentary The President Vs David Hicks.
Hicks will go down in the history of the 'War on Terror' as being the first person to plead guilty and be charged with providing "material support to terrorism" at a Guantanamo Bay military tribunal, created to try detainees picked up during the course of the war.
The full detail of the sentence imposed on Hicks should be announced over the weekend.
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