Ex-Guantanamo Detainee to be Freed, But With Restrictions

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Australia's best-known terrorist will leave prison next week, six years after he was captured while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But David Hicks's freedom of movement will be restricted, a court ruled on Friday. He will be subjected to a midnight-to-six a.m. curfew, have to report to police three times a week, and will not be allowed to leave the country.

The ruling came after the Australian Federal Police (AFP) presented the court with copies of letters the covert to Islam had written to family members from Pakistan in 2000 and 2001. In those letters, the then 26-year-old described the military training he had undergone, spoke about meeting the "lovely" Osama bin Laden many times, railed against Jews and the West, and expressed a desire to die as an Islamic "martyr."

"I spent around three months in a muslim military training camp in the mountains," he wrote from Pakistan in 2000. "I learnt about weapons such as ballistic missiles, surface to surface and shoulder fired missiles, anti aircraft and anti-tank rockets, rapid fire heavy and light machine guns, pistols, AK47s, mines and explosives. After three months everybody leaves capable and war-ready being able to use all of these weapons capably and responsibly."

Hicks in one letter appeared to admit taking part in an attack on Indian soldiers in Kashmir, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan and divided between the two, with the boundary between them known as the Line of Control (LOC).

"That night we crossed the LOC four people each with rocket propelled grenades 200m from a bunker holding two soldiers. I hope one [soldier] was the same one who killed the two civilians [in an earlier alleged incident]."

He also expressed the desire to sacrifice his life for Allah, telling his mother, "Real jihad is possible just like before in the Prophets day where martyrs die with a smile on their faces and their bodies stay smelling of beautiful perfume for weeks after death."

The letters provided a rare glimpse of Hicks' mindset and actions to an Australian public which, in recent years, has at times voiced skepticism about the level of threat he posed.

Hicks was incarcerated by the U.S. military in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from late 2001 until early this year, when under a plea bargain deal he pleaded guilty to a charge of providing material support for terrorism. He was sent home in May to complete the remainder of a nine-month prison sentence handed down by a U.S. military commission.

Ahead of his scheduled release next weekend, the AFP made a court application for a "control order" under legislation passed after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the U.S. Police Andrew Berger said Hicks had admitted taking part in four al-Qaeda training camps in 2001, the last one just a month before 9/11.

The federal magistrate who heard the application, Warren Donald, ruled in favor of restricting his movements.

"When the expressed views of respondent [Hicks] are coupled with the capacity to engage in such activities, I am satisfied on the balance of operabilities that there is a risk of the respondent either participating in a terrorist act, or training others for that purpose," he said.

Hicks, who reportedly renounced Islam while in Guantanamo Bay, did not appear before the court to argue his case, although he had the opportunity to do so.

Hicks' lengthy detention without charge became a cause celebre in Australia.

Former Prime Minister John Howard, a close ally of President Bush who lost an election last month, was attacked in parliament, in the media, and in public rallies over his handling of the affair.

Hicks' supporters characterized him as victim of the U.S.-led war on terrorism, guilty of little more than "thought crimes." Poems and songs were penned for him.

In the late 1990s, Hicks fought alongside the Kosovo Liberation Army in the Balkans, before returning to Australia and converting to Islam. He later headed for South Asia where, according to the Australian authorities, he trained with the Pakistan-based terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

LeT is a Sunni, Wahhabist organization founded in Pakistan in the late 1980s. In 1998 it signed up to bin Laden's fatwa forming the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Crusaders and Jews.

Designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization -- and banned in Australia since 2003 -- LeT has been blamed for numerous attacks in India, including an attack on the Indian Parliament three months after 9/11.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow