by Rebecca DiGirolamo
THE father of accused Adelaide-born Taliban fighter David Hicks caged himself in steel mesh outside the Liberal Party's national convention yesterday in a bid to invite John Howard to experience his son's fate.
After months of faIled attempts to meet the Prime Minister, Terry Hicks waited for his chance inside a 1.8m by 1.2m home-made replica of the small cage in which his son has been held without charge for the past 18 months at the US military prison. in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
But Mr Howard slipped undetected into the Adelaide Convention Centre through a rear door.
Disappointed at Mr Howard's detour, Mr Hicks said he would continue staging
"anything to keep this issue in the Government's face".
"I think it would be nice to put Mr Howard in the cage," he said.
"He probably wouldn't last three minutes in there because he would be too embarrassed there is an Australian citizen locked up in a situation like this."
Mr Hicks travelled to Canberra two weeks ago in a failed bid
to meet Mr Howard and
Attorney-General Daryl Williams over reports that the Government had refused to accept a
US offer to return his son home.
"I just want the Prime Minister to ask the American Government to send David home - all the other countries have asked, so why hasn't the Australian Government?"
The cage caused a stir among a handful of curious Liberal delegates, while
ministers Amanda Vanstone and Brendan Nelson received the brunt of heckling
Fair GO For David supporters waiting outside the convention centre entrance.
"Come and try on the cage for size and use your influence on the PM," said protester Frances Bedford, a state Labor MP Whose electorate includes the Hicks family home.
BBC NEWS | 'Taleban'
father in caged protest
The father of an Australian man accused of fighting for the Taleban has shut himself in a wire cage to protest at his son's detention at a US base.
Terry Hicks was protesting against what he said was the Australian Government's failure to demand the return of his son, David.
Mr Hicks shut himself in the cage outside a convention centre in Adelaide, where Prime Minister John Howard was attending a conference.
According to Mr Hicks, the cage is similar to the one his son is being held in at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where he has been detained without charge since the end of the war in Afghanistan 18 months ago.
The other countries have asked for their people back, what has the Australian
Terry Hicks said other countries had asked for their nationals back, but the Australian Government had "washed its hands" of the case.
"It's frustrating when it comes to government, you're banging your head against a brick wall - no one wants to talk to us," he told the Australian Associated Press.
"The government is very quick off the mark to give the drug dealers and everyone else ... consular access and lawyers, but when it comes to David's situation, he has nothing."
The Australian prime minister avoided the protest by entering the conference venue through a side door.
About 660 men from 40 different countries are being held without trial by the US
at Guantanamo Bay
The men - suspected of links with al-Qaeda or Afghanistan's former Taleban
rulers - are classified by the US as "unlawful combatants" and have no access to
Human rights groups have long urged Washington either to charge the Guantanamo
detainees with crimes and put them on trial, or let them go.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2003/06/08 11:18:44 GMT
© BBC MMIII
Terry Hicks, father of imprisoned alleged Taliban fighter David Hicks,
placed himself inside a small sturdy wire cage outside of the Adelaide Convention
Centre this morning, to protest the Federal Government's lack of action
in bringing his son home for a fair trial to face any charges. Mr Hick's
action was timed to coincide with the arrival of delegates to the Liberal
Party convention. His message was specifically directed at the Prime Minister,
John Howard, who, unlike other heads of state, has consistently refused
to raise the matter of David's incarceration in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba with
the US Government. Indefinite detention of prisoners of war without trial
is illegal under the terms of the Geneva Convention. Masters of doublespeak,
the US Government claims that the alleged fighters are not soldiers as such,
and therefore do not have any of the normal rights accorded to prisoners.
Recently it has been discovered that a number of boys under 16 are being
held in Cuba, boys whom the US chillingly dismisses as "enemy juvenile
On 12 March 2003 the full bench of the US Federal Court ruled that Australians David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib had no recourse to American courts. In contrast, American John Walker Lindh, detained in Afghanistan at the same time as Mr. Hicks, faced court in the US and was sentenced in September to 20 years in a jail near his family. Adelaide lawyer Stephen Kenny, also present at today's protest, is lodging an appeal to the US Supreme Court. Federal Attorney-General Daryl Williams, aka Pontius Pilate, lacks the will to put pressure on his US counterparts, limply claiming that investigations into both Australians involves complex legal and evidentiary issues.
Shielding themselves from such complexities, most conference delegates studiously ignored Mr Hick's protest and a dedicated group of his supporters, apart from one or 2 who loudly declared that David Hicks should stay in his cage. State Member for Florey (ALP) Frances Bedford MP kept up the pressure by calling out to each group of delegates to call on the PM to accord David his rights under the Geneva Convention and to bring him home.
For the past 18 months David Hicks, an Adelaide man and Australian citizen, has been held by the United States at Camp X-ray and now at Camp Delta on the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, without trial or access to legal help, since he was captured whilst allegedly fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Like other prisoners he is kept in a small cage, within a shipping container. Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), the engineering and construction subsidiary of controversial oil company Halliburton (recently awarded the main Iraqi oilwell firefighting contract), has a generous $33m contract to build the cages for the 600 men and boys detained in Cuba.
In response to Mr Hick's protest, Mr Howard entered the Liberal Convention via the back door.
-----------------published on indymedia in melbourne and adelaide