U.S. Military Court Overturns Terrorism Conviction of Tortured Australian

Friday, February 20, 2015
David Hicks

An Australian national who was tortured and spent six years as a detainee at Guantánamo has had his conviction overturned by a U.S. military appeals court.


David Hicks was convicted in 2007 by an American military tribunal after he pled guilty to a single count of providing material support to a terrorist organization.


After being released, Hicks tried to get his conviction overturned. He managed to get a hearing before the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review, which decided he hadn’t properly waived his appeal rights as a condition of his release eight years ago.


“The waiver was invalid and unenforceable,” Judge Scott L. Silliman wrote for the three-judge panel, according to McClatchy.


The U.S. military announced after the ruling that it would not appeal the decision, which clears the way for Hicks to get the conviction off his record.


“Hicks was the first prisoner to be convicted by a Guantánamo military commission, by virtue of his guilty plea, and he’s now the first to have his conviction vacated by the military commission appeals court,” Michael Doyle wrote at McClatchy.


Hicks got into trouble with the U.S. after he spent time in Pakistan during 1999-2000 training with a group called Lashkar-e Taiba, which was later designated a foreign terrorist organization.


He later helped guard a Taliban position in Afghanistan for a brief time, then tried to flee to Pakistan when Northern Alliance troops captured him and turned him over to U.S. forces.


He was later beaten by men who he claimed were American special operations soldiers. “I was only able to get a sentence or two out before they would again start hitting me, but as time went on the blows became more frequent,” Hicks stated in a 2012 affidavit drafted in Australia.


In the plea agreement he signed in order to be released, he had to declare that he “has never been the victim of any illegal treatment at the hands of any personnel while in the custody or control of the United States.”


But Hicks has claimed that as a prisoner at Guantánamo he was at first locked in a cage that exposed him to difficult weather conditions, as well as to tarantulas. He now has ongoing health problems “due to the torture – being kept in freezing conditions, small rooms for years,” he told journalists in Sydney. “Because of politics, I was subjected to five and a half years of physical and psychological torture that I will now live with always.” He claims to have been subjected to waterboarding, beatings, forced drugging and rectal rehydration.


Threatened with being sent to Egypt to be tortured, he decided to finally agree to the condition for being sent home—plead guilty.


“Having to give the appearance and seemingly admit that I was a terrorist and a supporter of terrorist attacks ripped my heart apart,” he said.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Court Annuls Guilty Plea of Australian Ex-Detainee (by Michael Doyle, McClatchy)

David Hicks: It Feels Good to be an Innocent Man (by Daniel Hurst and Michael Safi, The Guardian)

Witnesses Back Hicks on Chemical Torture (by Natalie O’Brien, Sydney Morning Herald)


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