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Homeland Security

Freed Guantanamo Bay Detainee Seeks Greater Freedoms

By Phil Mercer
20 November 2008

A former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Australian David Hicks, has broken his self-imposed silence, calling on the authorities to relax restrictions on his freedom since his release from jail. The Australian police say they do not plan to extend the restrictions when they expire in a few weeks. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

David Hicks appeared largely impassive in the brief video message, in which he pleaded with his supporters to help him win back his freedoms.

The former kangaroo hunter returned to Australia from the prison at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in May 2008 after pleading guilty to terrorism charges.

Under a plea agreement, he was transferred to a prison in his hometown of Adelaide, where he served out the remainder of his sentence. He was released last December and is subject to a control order, which the Australian Federal Police sought.

The order requires him to report to police several times a week and adhere to a strict midnight-to-dawn curfew.

The police said Thursday they will not seek to extend the order when it expires early next year.

In his video message released Thursday, Hicks expressed concern on the effects of the order.

"I don't know what the future holds for me," he said. The only thing I do know is that until the control order is lifted I will not be able to get on with my life."

Hicks spent five years at Guantanamo Bay and was the first detainee to be tried and convicted at a special US military commission.

He was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001. At his trial, he admitted training with al Qaeda and meeting its leader Osama bin Laden.

Hicks' video message was organized by a group of supporters, who claim he has wide public support and has received offers for work, although he remains mentally fragile after his imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay.

Rights activists say the Hicks case shows that Australia's anti-terrorism laws need to be reviewed because they compromise human rights for security.

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