Source : - The Age- Green Guide
March 11, 2004

A new film follows Terry Flicks in his quest for the truth.
By Clare Kermond
.

MANY years ago, Terry Hicks learned a golden rule for getting along in life: never talk about politics or religion. For the past two years these taboo subjects have invaded every corner of his world.Terry Hicks travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in search of answers about his son David

Terry Hicks's son David was captured in Afghanistan in January 2002. Since then, David has been a prisoner at the American naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. No charges have been laid against him, no date has been set for a trial, and Terry has been refused permission to see his son.

The Adelaide-bom David Hicks and his family have become part of the war agains terrorism. Hicks was among several hundred suspected terrorists seized by the Northern Alliance and taken to a specially constructed jail at Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon has labelled the prisoners "the worst of the worst" and "killers".

The catch is, according to Terry Hicks and his supporters, that after two years of interrogations, there is no evidence that David was ever a terrorist. David's story, and the impact it has had on his family, is the subject of an SBS documentary, The President Versus David Hicks.

In the burning heat of the Afghanistan desert, Terry is a forlorn, slightly vulnerable figure. In his T-shirt and football cap, he sits quietly in the back of a beaten-up truck as he ples to piece together the few months of his son's life before he was taken to Guantanamo Bay.

Meanwhile, at home in her kitchen in suburban Adelaide, Bev Hicks apologises for tears that keep coming as she says theirs as an ordinary family living an ordinary life.

Terry says he'd never been outside .Aiistralia before and did not feel brave when tie headed for Pakistan and Afghanistan in search of answers. But the choice was simple, he says.

"You bring up your kids, you try to bring them up as well as you can. if they run off the rails, you've got to stand by them. If it was your child you'd know straightaway what to do --you have to stand by them regardless," he says.

Since he learned his son was in the military jail, Terry has maintained that all he wants is for the Americans to charge David, if they have any evidence, and give hirn a fair trial..

Terry and others, including David's laywers argue that the Guantanamo Bay trial will not be fair because it will be a military tribunal in which the normal civil rules of law do not apply. For example, evidence obtained under interrogation will be admissible. The Pentagon has also recently stated that prisoners may be kept at the jail indefinitely if they are believed to be a threat to the US.

In his campaign to draw public attention to David's situation, Terry has created a graphic image, travelling to Parliament House in Canberra and various other locations to stand in a metal cage measuring about two metres by three metres, the same dimensions as the one in which David has been kept for more than two years.

You bring up your kids, you try to bring them up as well as you can. if they run off the rails, you've got to stand by them.Producer and director Curtis Levy says he became fascinated by David Hicks's story in early 2002, when he watched the young man being "demonised" by the media as his story unfolded.

"When President Bush had all those people put in Guantanamo Bay and he called them terrorists and he called them killers, the media tended to believe (him) and echoed it. We had headlines saying traitor - they didn't look into whether there was any evidence for these kind of charges.Even after two years of being locked in a cage, there has been no evidence made public," Levy says.

Levy approached Terry Hicks and quickly won his confidence. The award-winning director's films include five made in Indonesia, one of which told the story of a group of lslamic dissidents.

With co-director Bentley Dean, Levy followed Terry on an extraordinary journey, retracing his son's steps through Pakistan and Afghanistan. tying to discover how an average Adelaide boy ended up in a US jail for terrorists. Their small team spoke to people who had known David and visit the School where he studied Islam, but some of this is riot shown on film because many people were too frighitened to speak publicly.

Levy says Terry was calm and in control, despite the heat, the coriffision and dangers such as landmines.

"In Pakistan people are still very scared," he says. "People who are associated with some of the institutions where David was studying and training are under a lot of pressure from the Government because the Government is very close to the US -- quite a lot of Pakistanis liave been sent to Guantanamo Bay."

THE documentary shows that David Hick lived a fairly uneventful childhood in suburban Adelaide. An adventurous spirit and a love of horses took himi to Japan as a trainer. At that time, the war in Kosovo was being heavily reported, and Terry says his son was moved by the plight of the Muslims.

Instead of returning to Australia from Japan, David went on to Kosovo, joined the Kosovo Liberation Army, and apparently became with the Islamic community. After returning to Adelaide he began attending a mosque and taking instruction to become a Muslim.

Levy says another important step in David's conversion to Islam may have been his rejection by the Australian army, thought to be because he had left school early.

"After (not being accepted into the army) he went on a kind of search for some kind of religious answers. Because he'd had this association with Islam he started going to a local mosque in Adelaide. It's not clear that he even really wanted to fight - he went across to Pakistan to further his studies in Islarn," Levy says.

In Afghanistan David became a member of the Taliban, writing home to tell his family how "close to perfect" life was there, with the country run according to strict Islamic law.

Whatever personal quest led David Hicks to pursue his Islamic studies overseas and throw himself into the struggles of Muslim people through the Kosovo Liberation Army, and later the Taliban, it's clear that the world changed while he was away.

Levy points out that many ofthe organisations joined by David Hicks were at that time legal and did not attract criticism from the international community before the terrorist attacks of September 11.

"It was only after 9/11 that those kind of organisations became less acceptable. The same with the Taliban - when David joined, they were the official government of the day. It wasn't like he was joining a rebel organisation."

One place Terry Hicks couldn't go with the film crew was Guantanamo Bay. No relatives of prisoners are allowed to visit the American jail. Levy joined a media tour of the facility.

"It was a kind of Kafkaesque surreal sort of Place where the American military had their own kind of community with their MacDonald's and Subways, while these people were locked in cages not far away from where they had been leading their normal lives," Levy says.


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