Australian David Hicks is released from Yatala Labour Prison

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Back of Yatala Labour Prison, Northfield, South Australia.

Australian David Hicks was released Saturday from Yatala Labour Prison in Adelaide, South Australia.

Hicks, who until May 2007 had been held for five years at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, was serving out his remaining sentence in an Australian jail. At a U.S. war crimes tribunal, Hicks pleaded guilty to providing material support to a listed terrorist organisation and was sentenced to seven years in prison. As part of the plea agreement, all but nine months of the sentence was suspended and in May of 2007, Hicks was transferred to Yatala.

A contentious part of his sentence was a ban placed on Hicks to prevent him from speaking with the media for a period of one year from the time he pleaded guilty, which was in March, 2007. On his release Saturday, Hicks indicated that he intended to comply with the suppression order.

"It's my intention to honour this agreement as I don't want to do anything that might result in my return there," said Hicks in a written statement read by his lawyer, David McLeod. "So for now, I will limit what I have to say - I will say more at a later time."

A small group of supporters waited outside of Yatala and cheered as his car drove away. In his statement, Hicks had thanked his supporters for "the huge debt of gratitude that I owe the Australian public for getting me home." He added, "I will not forget or let you down."

At his trial, Hicks admitted he attended training camps in Afghanistan, conducted surveillance of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and revealed that he had met Osama bin Laden, leader of Al-Qaeda. He had participated in fighting against the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan in late 2001, and was caught while trying to flee the area.

David Hicks leaving Yatala Labour Prison.
Image: Pthornton.

On his release from prison Saturday, Hicks was driven to an undisclosed location in Adelaide. His lawyer said that Hicks fears for the safety of himself and his family. "David is concerned about the safety of his family from people who hold views he was purported to share," said David McLeod. "There are also a number of far-right nationalist groups in Australia who have spoken out about David."

Terry Hicks, David's father, said his son was pleased to be free. "He's on a high, he seems alright but I suppose in the quiet times everything will come back."

"It's now up to him," said Terry Hicks. "He now has got to get on with his life."