Howard & Cheney's Intervention In US Military Commission Trial Saw Terror Suspect's Charges Drop From Attempted Murder Of American Soldiers To Merely 'Aiding Terrorism'
February 2007 : Howard Says He Can Get David Hicks Set Free Anytime He Wants
By Darryl Mason
Only weeks before prime minister John Howard met with US vice president Dick Cheney in Sydney, back in March, he publicly boasted that he could get Australian terror suspect David Hicks set free from Guantanamo Bay any time he wanted to. Hicks had, by then, had spent more than five years in Guantanamo Bay, detained without charge, subjected to torture and intense interrogations.
In early February, public anger, and animosity within Howard's own party, over the alleged torture and abuse of David Hicks at the hands of Americans in Gitmo, was reaching fever pitch.
The unofficial election campaign, that is now expected to culminate with Howard losing the office or prime minister, had just begun to unroll, and Howard was under intense pressure from his party colleagues to get the extremely controversial issue of David Hicks out of media headlines.
On February 6, Howard boasted that he could secure the release of Hicks, whenever he liked, but he claimed that would have been "wrong" because Hicks was a terror suspect and had to face trial for the attempted murder of US soldiers in Afghanistan, shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
In March, Howard met with Dick Cheney and is believed to have asked the American vice president to do what he could to get Hicks in front of the military commission as soon as possible, and back home to Australia.
Howard wanted to make Hicks a non-issue and Cheney was willing to help out his vital ally in the War On Iraq.
Within weeks, a former staffer of Cheney had pushed aside the US military prosecutor, who had been seen all over the Australian news claiming that Hicks would be in jail for decades to come, and allowed lawyers for David Hicks to cut a plea deal.
Instead of facing charges of the attempted murder of American soldiers, Hicks was allowed to plead guilty to the incredibly weak charge, by comparison, of 'aiding terrorism'. He was sentenced to seven years, but the sentence was immediately suspended.
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Howard is now claiming that he did not intervene in the David Hicks trial and that justice was done.
Howard needs to stop lying about this. He needs to come clean immediately. The story is already making international headlines, as any stories involving Cheney and corruption always do.
The last thing Howard needs is for this fresh scandal to become a major election issue, as it is now likely to become, with the opposition set to use the scandal as a way to attack Howard's credibility and his high poll numbers on matters of national security.
The Howard-Cheney deal to get Hicks off attempted murder charges, so he would get through the military commission quicker, is sleazy, grubby and Howard looks like he has put his own political career before some of the most important goals of the 'War on Terror', one of which is supposed to be rounding up and prosecuting to the hilt any members and supporters of Al Qaeda, as Hicks has confessed himself to be.
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