Evil Terrorist David Hicks Will Serve… Nine Months

by Kevin Jon Heller

How happy is David Hicks today?

A U.S. military tribunal sentenced Australian David Hicks Friday to seven years in prison but he will only have to serve nine months of the sentence.

Hicks, who became the first war crimes convict among the hundreds of foreign captives held for years at the Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba, pleaded guilty to supporting terrorism in an agreement with U.S. military prosecutors.

The deal allows all but nine months of the sentence to be be suspended. He will serve it in Australia and the United States must send him home by May 29.

[snip]

Appearing at the U.S. military’s war crimes tribunal court at Guantanamo on Friday, Hicks acknowledged that he trained with al-Qaida in Afghanistan and fought with its forces against U.S. allies in Afghanistan in late 2001 for two hours and then sold his gun to raise cab fare and tried to flee to Pakistan.

He denied having any advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks.

[snip]

Hicks is not accused of actually shooting anyone. A convert to Islam who has since abandoned the faith, he sold his gun to raise cab fare and was captured trying to flee to Pakistan by taxi in December 2001.

So, let’s recap: Hicks was originally charged with conspiracy, aiding the enemy, and attempted murder by an unprivileged belligerent. He now pleads guilty to “material support of terrorism,” but is not accused of, and does not admit to, ever shooting anyone. And instead of potentially spending the rest of his life in the hell of Gitmo as an enemy combatant, he gets credit for time served, returns to his native Australia where he has significant public and governmental support, and will be a free man by the end of the year.

All in all, a typical collapse for a Bush administration terror prosecution. Hence the most interesting — and revealing — aspect of the plea deal:

While the prosecution agreed to limits on his maximum sentence, Hicks agreed to several conditions including withdrawing allegations he had been abused by US authorities, before or after his transfer to the Guantanamo prison in 2002.

Kohlmann asked Hicks if he agreed that he had “never been illegally treated by any persons in the control or custody of the United States” during his detention in Afghanistan and subsequent transfer to Guantanamo.

Hicks replied, “yes.”

The Australian had previously alleged he was beaten by US forces before he was transferred to Guantanamo in 2002. He had also alleged he had been sedated before learning of the charges against him.

Raise your hand if you think Hicks withdrew his allegations because they were false, not because he wanted the sweetheart deal.

Hicks’ “admission” is, of course, irrelevant to his culpability. But it is all too relevant to an administration in such shambles that muzzling its critics is now the best it can hope for.

http://opiniojuris.org/2007/03/30/evil-terrorist-david-hicks-will-serve-nine-months/

4 Responses

  1. Every day criminals are released because there is not enough evidence to prove the crime, or they plead guilty to a lesser offense. In this case if “he trained with al-Qaida in Afghanistan and fought with its forces against U.S. allies in Afghanistan in late 2001 for two hours” then he was in fact an unprivileged belligerent and plausibly guilty of attempted murder. To be guilty of attempted murder you only have to shoot at someone, you don’t actually have to hit anyone. So his statement is a confession to the original charges while accepting a sentence for a lesser offense. All that shows is that without his confession, there was not enough other evidence to prove the facts he just admitted.

    As with any deal, the amount of time he will serve is a calculation by both sides of the strength of the evidence against him and not a measure of what he did. That said, instead of being the “worst of the worst”, Guantanamo appears to be filled with “dumb and dumber”.

  2. It is unclear whether Hicks admitted to firing his gun at the front; his defense attorney continues to insist he never did, which makes it unlikely that Hicks said anything to the contrary during his plea colloquy. Regardless, it is important to note that the U.S. government dropped the attempted murder charge long before plea negotiations began, indicating that it knew it could not prove that he ever shot at anyone.

  3. I thought Mr. Heller earlier expressed hope that Mr. Hicks get credit for time served and a relatively lenient sentence… however, I can’t find anything in the archives on this.

    Is my memory mistaken?

  4. Hmm… perhaps it was Mr. O’Donnell.

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