David Hicks wins appeal against terrorism conviction in US military court in Cuba

DavidAustralian David Hicks, a former prisoner at the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, has won a legal challenge to his terrorism conviction before a military court in Cuba.

Mr Hicks was held at Guantanamo Bay from January 2002 until May 2007, when he pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorism in a plea bargain that suspended all but nine months of his sentence and allowed him to return home to Australia.

Overnight, the United States Court of Military Commission Review set aside Mr Hicks’ guilty plea and sentence.

The court ruled that Mr Hicks’ decision to forego his right of appeal as part of his plea bargain was invalid because it was not filed in time.

“There is insufficient indication … that the appellant reiterated his desire not to appeal within 10 days,” the commission’s judgment said.

“Thus we hold that the waiver is invalid and unenforceable.

“Both parties agree that the appellant’s conviction cannot stand on its merits.

“The findings of guilty are set aside and dismissed, and the appellant’s sentence is vacated,” the judgment concluded.

Wells Dixon from the Centre for Constitutional Rights said Mr Hicks was aware of the decision and was thrilled.

“We are very happy for David,” he said.

“Today’s decision is a powerful reminder that he committed no crime, he is innocent of any offence.

“David Hicks can now be truly free of Guantanamo.”

Stephen Kenny, Mr Hick’s lawyer in Australia, said the decision confirmed his client’s innocence.

“Well it means David Hicks’ conviction has been set aside and he’s been declared an innocent man so it confirms what we knew all along,” he said.

“He’s an innocent man and quite frankly he should never have been in Guantanamo, and should certainly never have been there as long as he was.

“David Hicks was innocent and that has formally been recorded by the military commission itself.”

Mr Hicks’ father, Terry Hicks, said he was relieved that years of legal battles and uncertainty had come to an end.

“David would be pretty elated about it at the moment as well,” he said.

“It’s been a long road which has finally now come to an end.

“It’s pretty hard to take in at the moment.”

Father calls for official apology

Mr Hicks said now that his son’s case was finalised, life could go back to “normal”.

“We can get on with what we want to do without the worry of how things are going with court cases,” he said.

It’s been a long time … And now, at last the Americans have done the right thing.

Terry Hicks

“It’s been a long time – we’ve known the story for many, many years. And now, at last the Americans have done the right thing.

“That’s the end of it.”

But he still hoped for an official apology from the responsible governments.

“I think at the moment we just need an apology,” Mr Hicks said.

“The rulings they placed on David were all retrospective anyway which is illegal.

“The American and the Australian governments in their wisdom decided to leave things as they were until now. At this point in time I myself believe there should be an apology.

“I doubt it will happen because it’s just too embarrassing for them.”

Cabinet Minister Bruce Billson rejected calls for the Government to apologise over its handling of Mr Hicks’ case.

“I don’t think anyone’s under a misapprehension about what was going on with Mr Hicks – he wasn’t at a scout jamboree and I don’t think anyone’s contesting that issue,” Mr Billson said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Mr Hicks suffered an injustice and the Australian Government needed to respond.

“There is no doubt on one hand David Hicks was probably foolish to get caught up in that Afghanistan conflict but clearly there has been an injustice done to him,” Mr Shorten said.

“The American courts have finally established that. I think there is an issue here for the Australian Government.

“We can’t control what American military courts do, but I do think that the Australian Government needs to examine, did they really do all they could to ensure injustice didn’t occur.

“I think it’s a valuable lesson, whilst we want to maintain the security of this nation, we want to be careful that injustice is not done to individuals.”

The US government has not said whether it will attempt to challenge today’s decision.

Source: | Authors: Emma Griffiths and James Bennett


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