FORMER Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks said the Australian government’s unwillingness to come to his aid during his detention by the US set a “dangerous precedent” and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could face a similar fate.
In his first public appearance since the release of his memoir last year, Hicks, 35, told a supportive audience of 900 people at the Sydney Writers Festival that there were many unresolved issues related to his detention and torture at Guantanamo Bay.
David Hicks, left, at the Sydney Writers Festival yesterday, with his father, Terry, signing a copy of his autobiography about his experiences at Guantanamo Bay.
Hicks was returned to Australia in 2007 to serve the final nine months of a seven-year sentence imposed in the US for providing material support for terrorism. He has always denied involvement in terrorism.
“I don’t want to sound bitter . . . because I’m not, and what happened, happened and it’s time to get on with my life. But at the same time it is bigger than me . . . because this set a dangerous precedent where it’s going to happen again and look at Julian Assange,” Hicks said.
“Now Julian Assange still has time, because he is not in the hands of the US government, but they are trying really hard and it’s serious and the Australian government — it seems as though they are going to allow him to end up in the hands of the US government. I know, from personal experience, what’s going to happen to him.
“It may not happen at Guantanamo, but they are going to create some new dodgy legal situation . . . and he will disappear. And when he disappears, you know, what will happen to him then?”
Hicks has previously declined to discuss his book, Guantanamo, My Journey, with the media because he said he still suffered from speech defects and memory loss due to his 5 1/2-year incarceration.
Speaking in a tight voice, he told the audience at the Sydney Theatre Company yesterday that he had been painted by the media as a “monster out to cause harm”, but he had never hurt anyone or planned to commit acts of terror.
“I went overseas with the intention to help people, to do something,” Hicks said.
“Some people . . . think it was a bit weird, a bit strange, impulsive, naive, OK, but my intentions were good and, unfortunately, I ended up being detained and tortured and accused of being a terrorist.”
Hicks also recounted some of the “bizarre, horrible” incidents that occurred at the US detention centre, including one grim story about a Saudi detainee who was tortured by soldiers as they informed him of his mother’s death.
Hicks and his father, Terry, who was in the audience, received a standing ovation.
After the event, dozens of people clutching copies of the Green Left Weekly and Hicks’s book, lined up to have their copies signed by the author, who refused all media questions.