Daily Archives: August 21, 2011

Hicks, it was political all along!

It is claimed in leaked documents not yet seen by the public that John Howard in a meeting with then VP Dick Cheney asked for David Hicks to be charged with War Crimes.

It was February 24, 2007 and the majority of the Australian public was demanding David Hicks be brought home from Guantanamo Bay. What started out as a small group of family supporters, lawyers and activists had grown to be one of the largest human rights campaigns for an individual in Australian history. For years the Howard Government had tried everything to make it go away, but on the issue of him coming home a free man they would not budge.

With an election certain for some time late in the year and new Opposition ALP leader Kevin Rudd surging in the polls Howard would look to his friends in high places. He couldn’t go to another election with the Hicks issue still unresolved and with Hicks in US hands, he would need their help. So in a meeting at his Sydney office on that February day John Howard told Dick Cheney Hicks, or more accurately his cause, had become a ”political threat” to his re-election.

Calling in a favour from a powerful friend!

As then Vice President of the United States Cheney was a man known to get things done. He had been seen the entire time of George W. Bush’s presidency as the man who pulled the strings. But more importantly he had been Secretary of Defense under Bush Snr and knew the right people to call at the pentagon. Howard was seen as a key ally for the Bush administration, he’d sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq and followed the entire War on Terror in step with the US. This was a favour Cheney could do and wanted to do for a friend.

A week later on 1 March 2007, David Hicks was formally charged with material support for terrorism, and referred to trial by the special military commission.

He would be prosecuted by Chief Prosecutor, Guantanamo Military commissions, Colonel Morris D. Davis. With his high rank, four medals, a Juris doctorate, two Masters of law degrees and distinguished career in military law he was seen by the Bush administration as the right man to prosecute the “worst of the worst” in Gitmo. But in a recent interview with an Australian newspaper Colonel Davis has maintained there was political interference in the charge against Hicks, which he says any reasonable person would see as a ”favour for  an ally”.

Colonel Davis believes Howard asked for Hicks to be tried for War Crimes

“Colonel Davis said Hicks had been a good candidate to be transferred back to his home country – without charge – like dozens of others held in Cuba. He came to the conclusion that there was political interference in the case soon after  he received an urgent phone call from the Pentagon General Counsel, William  ‘Jim’ Haynes, who had asked him: ”How quickly can you charge David Hicks?”

”I knew for John Howard it was becoming a political liability with an  election coming up,” Colonel Davis said. That was the first and only time Mr Haynes had ever called him about a specific case and he found it to be ”odd”.  The eventual plea bargain was negotiated behind his back, Colonel Davis said.”

With internet publication Truthout claiming to hold the official documents that would back up these claims it is time John Howard answered some very serious questions. Did he ask the US Administration to charge Hicks to help his own re-election bid and why, when it is stated Australian Government policy not to interfere in legal cases involving Australian’s did he do exactly that?

Political trials, under laws that no International or US legal body, including the Supreme Court accepted are not how Australia or any other democracy should conduct itself on the International stage. To ask for a political favour for re-election at the expense of your own national interest and the interest of your citizen is disgraceful. Many prominent International law experts have stated clearly it is worse than that. And with the UN set to investigate and proceedings to determine if Hicks can keep his books profits, Howard may find his friend’s in high places are no more.

Ten years on from Tampa

For many the Tampa is not a boat, it is not a place their lives changed or even a policy that took Australia outside of International legal norms. It was a defining moment for then PM John Howard in ensuring he would win the coming election. But what about the people? The Sydney Morning Herald’s Ben Doherty examines.

A decade after their disastrous voyage, the Tampa asylum seekers sent  back to Afghanistan are still on the run.

Sarwar had been home a week when they came for him. After more than two years  away from Afghanistan – on leaky boats and in refugee camps, seeking a new  country to call home – he returned to his village in Ghazni province.

“He was at his home for one week when some men, some Taliban, came on  motorbikes. They took him from his house and they killed him. They dragged him  outside and choked him to death with barbed wire.

“His wife and children saw him killed. They fled. I don’t know where they are  now,” Mohammad Akbar Sohrabi says.

Afghan family.Fearful … Mohammad Akbar Sohrabi, fourth from left, with members of his  extended family in their rented home where he remains largely in hiding. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Sohrabi carries a photo of Sarwar. It’s mixed up among the meagre possessions  he has from his time overseas, alongside a flimsy passport with an incorrect  birth date and a Nauru stamp in it.

The shopkeeper and the metalworker were firm friends at Topside, the  Australian-run refugee camp on Nauru. The photograph shows them in happy times,  seated, making preparations for one of the occasional parties the detainees  held. Then, they believed they would be resettled in Australia.

Eventually though, pressured to return to Afghanistan, they flew home  together, “but we faced the same problems, the same people, waiting for us”.


The Tampa’s human cargo pictured from the air as a political storm erupts in  Australia. Photo: Mike Bowers

For the complete story visit:-  http://www.smh.com.au/national/bonds-of-hope-and-hardship-20110819-1j2ct.html

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