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31 March, 2007

What Is Happening To America ?

After five years in Guantanamo Bay, David Hicks will be released within the next two months. Under the terms of a disgraceful deal he has made with the American government, he will serve nine months of a seven-year sentence back home in Australia. The rest of the sentence will be suspended. In return he has had to agree not to sue them, has had to sign an agreement to say that they did not torture him, has had to agree not to give interviews for the next year (who is that one protecting, Mr. Howard?) and has had to agree that if he sells the rights to his story, the Australian government will get the money. In the words of Amnesty International Australia:
Amnesty International believes David Hicks has been denied justice. The military
commission is a shabby show trial and David Hicks has pleaded guilty to
trumped-up charges in a kangaroo court.

Holding a man for five years without trial in appalling conditions obviously isn’t enough. Now he has to be gagged and denied his rights to free speech and legal remedies.

I have no time for people like David Hicks. They are idiots at best and vicious killers at worse – and probably both. It’s America that I care about, and Australia (whose government has been complicit in Hick’s illegal detention all along). A free country cannot condone imprisonment without trial for anybody, whatever they have allegedly done. It cannot condone torture of its prisoners, for any reason, whatever the provocation. And it cannot strip people of their civil rights to suit its own political expediency. If it does so once, I fear that it will find it easier to do so again, and even easier the next time. Until in the end, it isn’t a free country anymore, just another damned tyranny.

The continuing existence of Guantanamo Bay is a blot on America’s reputation. It is a shocking testimony to the abuses of power the USA continues to indulge in. A free nation, a leading democracy, should not be locking people up without trial – no matter what. It is a violation of everything that country is supposed to stand for. It is a shameful, disgraceful way for a civilised country to behave - especially one that used to stand as a beacon to the world. All Americans should hang their heads in shame that they allow this to go on.

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