August 27, 2003
With the focus on the terror attacks in Iraq, Indonesia and now India,
there has been little sympathy for the fate of David Hicks, an alleged Australian
terrorist captured in Afghanistan. His father, Terry Hicks, recently returned
from a trip to Afghanistan, where he attempted to
discover the truth about his son. Mark Davis caught up with him in Adelaide.
[ Terry Hicks Interview - 12:08 secs ]
REPORTER: MARK DAVIS
The northern suburbs of Adelaide - a modest headquarters to go into battle with the United States and the Australian Government. From here Terry Hicks is waging an international campaign to win a fair trial for his son David and his freedom from Guantanamo Bay.
I've come to see Terry Hicks on a Sunday afternoon, just a few days after he's returned from a world lobbying tour including America. With his son having virtually no legal rights in the US, and his own government remaining silent, Hicks, has little option but to resort to direct appeals to the American people.
TERRY HICKS: How are you?
MARK DAVIS: Terry, g'day, Mark Davis, SBS.
TERRY HICKS: Come in.
MARK DAVIS: Thanks.
Terry Hicks is an unlikely radical.
TERRY HICKS: Trying to catch up with the stuff that I missed out on while I was away.
MARK DAVIS: Are you in New York?
TERRY HICKS: That's in New York.
REPORTER: He has no idea how he's coping because he hasn't been allowed to phone him or visit him in 19 months. Here in New York...
Even just a few months ago it would have been unimaginable to him that he'd be locking himself in a cage on the streets of New York to highlight the condition of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, his son David included.
MARK DAVIS: When did you get back?
TERRY HICKS: Thursday.
BEV HICKS: Hi, I'm Bev.
MARK DAVIS: Hi, Mark Davis.
BEV HICKS: Nice to met you.
For 20 months Terry and his wife Bev, David's stepmother, have harboured an expectation that David, as a POW would soon be released but the US has made it clear that he may never leave custody, even though there are still no charges against him.
Terry Hicks was once prepared to believe that his son may have committed an offence, but not any more, not after an astonishing journey.
TERRY HICKS: I have a different outlook now that I don't believe David is guilty of what they're saying.
The most important part of his journey wasn't New York. It was retracing the steps of his son through the Pakistanian madrassas to the battlefield of Afghanistan.
TERRY HICKS: These were taken at an al-Qa'ida training camp.
Terry Hicks was seeking out any Taliban or al-Qa'ida fighters who knew his son.
TERRY HICKS: I met a lot of wonderful characters actually, some quite tough ones too.
MARK DAVIS: Or some pretty shady ones, I would imagine.
TERRY HICKS: Oh, yes, yes, but hospitality-wise - brilliant. They were absolutely brilliant. I'd never been out of Australia.
MARK DAVIS: First trip out of Australia?
TERRY HICKS: Yeah, I've been to Tasmania, but, no, this was my first...
Unlike his dad, David Hicks was rather fond of exotic locations. He fought in the war in Yugoslavia for the Kosovo Liberation Front and reportedly in the Kashmir. He'd converted to Islam, moved to Pakistan to further his religious studies before joining the Taliban in Afghanistan. Perhaps not an admirable choice but probably not an illegal one.
TERRY HICKS: Right there was the checkpoint where David was arrested.
MARK DAVIS: Oh, OK.
When America invaded Afghanistan, Hicks was captured and deposited in Guantanamo Bay, no lawyers, no charges, no contact with the outside world, just constant interrogation for 20 months.
SBS TV NEWS (13.12.2001): Today from David Hicks's family home in the North Adelaide suburb of Salisbury Park, his father Terry...
From the time of David Hicks's capture it was a sensational story. Terry maintains that both he and his son had been deliberately misrepresented in the media and by politicians, that David's supposed offences are nothing more than rumours and that his own comments have been sliced up to suit the editorial.
Today, he has agreed to discuss what he learnt about his son in Afghanistan and something he's rarely spoken of - David's background before he became a headline - something of a mystery to most Australians.
MARK DAVIS: Before this all unfolded did you know your son well or do you think you knew him well?
TERRY HICKS: I always believed I knew my son well, yes. He's always been adventurous, a lot of people say he was absolutely stupid. Well, maybe so in some cases but he still had that adventurous curiosity I suppose you'd call it, of wanting to see what's over the other side of the hill and he went there and found out.
MARK DAVIS: How does it get to this point? Before he goes to Afghanistan he had been fighting in Kosovo. He comes back, he's staying - he's living with you, of course. What do you say to your son? He's been fighting someone else's war, he's about to go to a madrassa in Pakistan, he may end up in Afghanistan. What do you say to the your son, what are you fighting in Kosovo for?
TERRY HICKS: I've tried to broach the subject with David quite a few times while he was here, but he was, no, he was very quiet on the subject of Kosovo. I think he just saw too much and I suppose it would be like some of the Vietnam vets.
MARK DAVIS: Vietnam vets are fighting for their country. This is a mystery. What do you say? He walks in the door, he's staying with you for months or years I don't know, the time difference, do you ever raise it, what are you doing, what are you fighting?
TERRY HICKS: No, I've tried to broach the subject, but it was something
that he just wanted to keep to himself. So I didn't push it, I don't push
the issue. I mean, we say Vietnam vets fought for their country, I believe
David was fighting for his people, which were the Muslims, because he was
a Muslim convert. When he went to Kosovo, it was the atrocities being
committed against the Muslims. He went across to help them. I didn't have any full understanding of why at that stage till after that. David's always been someone that he'd help anyone, doesn't matter who it is. If he thinks they're in a sticky situation he would help them.
MARK DAVIS: Where does this obsession with the military and with weaponry, going to fight wars that he doesn't have to fight come from?
TERRY HICKS: If you can tell me, you've enlightened me, I tell you, because David has never been into military or weapons until recently. So, I don't know where that came from, whether it come from Kosovo, I don't know, but before that he has no interest whatsoever in weaponry or wars.
MARK DAVIS: But it's pretty intense thing to do though?
TERRY HICKS: It is. I agree with that, it is intense. And I just honestly don't know where it comes from.
MARK DAVIS: But that also makes him potentially dangerous, at the
very least. The case is unclear at the moment with what he's been charged
with but he's not an ordinary fellow is he? He's gone off, he is fighting,
he's potentially killing people. You would have to suspect that he is up
to something incredibly dangerous and something that is quite possibly
TERRY HICKS: No, I don't believe so. I don't know whether he's ever killed anyone. He's never ever said he has. A lot of the reports, particularly - they say David was captured fighting against the Northern Alliance or fighting against the Americans. David was captured by the Northern Alliance unarmed in the back of a truck or a van. So, it wasn't on the battlefield at all.
When David Hicks joined the Taliban it was not an offence in American eyes. Even though many of them were trained as soldiers by al-Qa'ida. It became an offence after the Americans launched their invasion. Terry tracked down Taliban soldiers who had avoided being sent to Guantanamo Bay or who've since been released to find out what the relationship with al-Qa'ida was?
TERRY HICKS: Their stories were so much different than what the Americans and the Australian Government are saying.
MARK DAVIS: In terms of the type of training he was undertaking?
TERRY HICKS: That's right. I've been told by both sides, Taliban
and Northern Alliance, that foreigners were trained as military foot soldiers,
mainly the Arabs and that type of people were actually trained in terrorism,
but not in Afghanistan. They were trained in the Arab states. I mean, who
do I believe? Do I believe the Americans who say he's been
trained as a terrorist? I don't think so. Not anymore.
Friends, Gale and Kev Ryan have dropped in to welcome Terry home and to catch up on the football. Terry and Bev say that virtually all of their friends and neighbours have stuck by them and many of them have joined their campaign, but all the friends in the world haven't enabled them to get a lawyer to David and even a letter has become virtually impossible.
MARK DAVIS: Are you getting letters now?
BEV HICKS: No. David has not had a letter from us since mid-December because they keep sending them back. They sent them back?
MARK DAVIS: What did they say?
BEV HICKS: Nothing just "return to sender".
MARK DAVIS: Return to sender.
BEV HICKS: It's not the Red Cross's fault at all. We rang the Red Cross about that and they said, Well, send them into us again and we will forward them on, but the thing is, Mark, you do not know whether it's going to be 3 months, 6 months or 9 months before they go into the camp again and can deliver it.
Terry Hicks thought his nightmare would end when the war in Afghanistan did, but with his son now being one of six listed for trial still on unspecified charges, his faith that ordinary standards and procedures of justice would prevail has evaporated.
MARK DAVIS: We didn't hear a lot from you in those early months. It's only quite recently that you're starting to take a prominent role, what's motivated that? What change have you gone through where you're not clearly prepared to be a far more public face than you were earlier?
TERRY HICKS: In the early piece when we were approached by ASIO and raided I suppose you'd call it, one of their hard and fast questions was you do not talk to the media until we tell you to and I adhered to that. But after 20 months, no charges, well, I have my doubts that what they're saying about David is right. After this trip that I went on, there's a lot of questions that to me, that were answered a lot differently than what the Australian Government and the American Government are saying.
MARK DAVIS: Whatever happens, this is going to be a long road by the looks of it now. Do you think you'll ever see your son again?
TERRY HICKS: Yes, it's something doesn't bear thinking about really,
that it could be another 20 years before I see him. Something we've just
got to wait and see what happens