Source: The News Online
June 12, 2006
By Paul Osborne
THE father of Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks and his legal team have accused the Federal Government of being involved in a whitewash over his son's condition.
Terry Hicks's comments came as Prime Minister John Howard and David Hicks's US military lawyer gave conflicting accounts of his condition.
"I have been told that he received a consular visit ... and the report from that consular visit was positive," Mr Howard said today.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told AAP Australia's consul-general in Washington had visited Hicks and "confirmed that he was fit and well".
But Hicks's military lawyer, Major Michael Mori, said after the same visit that Hicks was in poor health, showing weight loss and continuing signs of depression.
"He'd lost a lot of weight. I think the weight loss is part of his loss of appetite, just coming on from his ... depression manifesting itself in that way," Major Mori said on ABC radio today.
Terry Hicks said consular officials had told him David was fit and well.
"But when Mori rang after the consular officials rang, I questioned him about this and he said 'No, David is in isolation. He is not fit and well – he is depressed'.
"'Fit and well' is their stock-standard answer. What are they trying to prove?" he said.
Hicks, a 30-year-old convert to Islam, has been held at the US naval base in Cuba since shortly after he was captured fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
He is to face a military commission to answer charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty, of attempted murder, aiding the enemy and conspiracy.
The first suicides at Guantanamo Bay – involving two men from Saudi Arabia and one from Yemen, reported last week – have led to renewed calls for the facility to be closed down immediately and prisoners returned to their home countries.
Attorney-General's Department officials told a Senate estimates hearing last month that Hicks was in a one-person cell but not in solitary confinement.
They said he was able to have contact with other prisoners, go into a general block area which has natural sunlight and have access to exercise and outdoor facilities in group areas.
But Mr Hicks said his son spent 22 hours a day locked up.
"From what I can gather he can't talk to anyone," he said.
"The bottom line is he is in isolation."
The Australian Greens and Australian Democrats tomorrow will attempt to step up political pressure on the Government over the Hicks case by moving motions calling for his release and the closure of Guantanamo Bay.
They have been incensed by comments from US officials, who have described the suicides as a public relations stunt and an act of warfare by the detainees, who had previously gone on hunger strikes.
"We've had the Danish prime minister, the British attorney-general and the UN call for its closure," Democrats justice spokeswoman Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said.
"Australia, in contrast, looks like a cheer squad for the military commission process."
Greens leader Bob Brown described the prison camp as an "illegal torture centre".
A rally in support of Hicks will be held outside South Australia's Parliament House on Friday.