David Hicks will no longer carry the tag “convicted terrorist” after winning an appeal against his 2007 in the US overnight.
He says he doesn’t expect an apology from the Australian Government after years of being political poster boy for terrorist threats – “I don’t care, honestly,” he said today in Sydney.
He ruled out suing for compensation, but he does want the government to pay his ongoing medical bills for treatment that he claims was the result of being tortured in Guantanamo Bay over five years.
“That’s not much to ask I don’t think,” he said during a media conference in Sydney today.
Exchanges with reporters got terse at times, with Hicks being repeatedly asked about what he was doing in Afghanistan, where he was captured in 2001. “I was on holidays,” he said in response to one question about it.
Hicks, who was carrying a motorbike helmet, said his health issues were making it difficult to keep working and earn a living.
“It is becoming an expensive exercise to fix myself from torture,” Hicks said, saying he’s had or needs ongoing operations for his back, knees and elbows as well as dental work.
“Being kept in freezing conditions, small metal rooms for years. Not being able to move or exercise… The body deteriorates over five-and-a-half years, even without the added torture, such as stress positions, being beaten,” he said.
The US Court of Military Commission Review set aside his conviction for providing material support to terrorism. After his capture in Afghanistan Hicks was handed over to US authorities. He was held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, between January 2002 and May 2007, and claimed he was tortured during that time.
After pleading guilty in a plea bargain in 2007, the 39-year-old was allowed to return to Australia
Hicks has fought to clear his name ever since, but as part of the plea bargain, he was not allowed to appeal his conviction.
The review court disagreed, ruling that the waiver is invalid and unenforceable because it was not filed in time.
“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.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the squashing of Hicks’conviction was “a matter for the lawyers”.
“The important thing is not to fret about an old terrorist threat, it’s to focus on the current terrorist threat which is real, which is serious,” he said.
Hicks’ Australian lawyer, Stephen Kenny, who flanked his client today, said his client’s innocence was now confirmed.
“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,” Kenny said.
Hicks’ father, Terry, said “at last the Americans have done the right thing”, adding that overturning his son’s conviction was “the end of it”.
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