In his first interview on Australian television, former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks has said he finds terrorism “disgusting” and never trained with extremists.
The former kangaroo hunter, who was born in Adelaide, pleaded guilty before a U.S. military commission for providing material support for terrorism and was sent home in 2007.
David Hicks has rarely spoken in public and remains a polarizing figure. To some Australians he’s a traitor who admitted supporting extremism, while others say he is a victim of rough justice.
Hicks was detained in Afghanistan after the attacks in New York and Washington in 2001. His family has always insisted he was a naive young man who was simply seeking adventure far from home.
Hicks’ first Australian television interview is full of denials.
He insisted that he never fought for the Taliban or met Osama Bin Laden despite previously admitting to meeting the al-Qaeda leader.
The former Guantanamo Bay detainee also accused his U.S. captors of forcing a confession through torture and beatings. U.S. officials have insisted that Hick was treated in accordance with international law. The International Committee of the Red Cross assessed that interrogation practices at Guantanamo Bay were tantamount to torture.
Hicks was held at Guantanamo Bay before being repatriated four years ago. This week he told Australia’s Channel Ten television network that he was forced to confess to crimes he did not commit.
“I think terrorism is disgusting, so it disappoints me that I’d be referred to as a convicted supporter of terrorism," Hicks said. "I’ve never supported terrorism. I’ve never received terrorism training. First of all I didn’t fight for the Taliban. At any time I was involved in no conflict in Afghanistan. I never engaged in conflict against Australian or U.S. troops, or any coalition forces. I never intended to.”
The Australian citizen was detained in late 2001 in Afghanistan, where he traveled after converting to Islam and is alleged to have helped the Taliban fight U.S.-led forces. Prosecutors at the time said Hicks received weapons and guerrilla warfare training at several al-Qaida terrorist camps there.
Hicks is now seeking compensation and an apology from the Australian government for its part in his alleged mistreatment.
He also has taken his case to the United Nations. In documents submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, the former Guantanamo Bay inmate claims he was beaten, sexually abused and drugged in U.S. custody. His submissions urge the Australian government to ask Washington to overturn his terrorism conviction.
David Hicks recently published his memoirs, the proceeds of which have been frozen by an Australian court following legal action by federal authorities. The case is continuing and prosecutors say that Hicks must not be allowed to profit from his crimes.
Critics say Hicks’ autobiography is full of inconsistencies and fails to properly explain what the young Australian who had converted to Islam was doing in Afghanistan following the September 11th attacks.
His controversial book has been short-listed for a prestigious prize, the Queensland state Premier's Literary Awards. Hicks says any prize money will be donated to victims of torture.