David Hicks speaks out at the Sydney Writers’ Festival

At this years Sydney Writers’ Festival, Australian citizen and former Guantanamo Bay detainee, David Hicks discussed his newly released book, his time with the Kosovo Liberation Army,  and his journey into the hell that was GITMO.

Audio Link:

David Hicks at the Sydney Writers Festival 2011

Listen closely to the Q&A period in which David refers to John Howard, Phillip Ruddock and Alexander Downer’s.

The below ABC article also adds some further context to the above audio.


Former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks has made his first public appearance since his return to Australia, to talk about his autobiography which details his time in the prison camp.

Mr Hicks told a packed audience at the Sydney Writers’ Festival he is not a monster and had not even heard of Al Qaeda until he was interrogated at the US detention facility in Cuba.

He spoke about the torture he and others underwent at the hands of the US military and that he only pleaded guilty to a charge of supporting terrorism to get out of there.

“When you listen to the screams of someone else being tortured in a room next to you and you hear the bangs and you hear the anger of the people making that person scream, it’s pretty well being tortured yourself because you know it can happen any time to you,” he said.

Mr Hicks spent more than five years in Guantanamo Bay after being captured in Afghanistan in 2001.

He said he constantly suffered bouts of anger, depression and insanity and seriously considered suicide towards the end of his time there.

“I’ve been presented as some monster out to cause harm. [Prime minister] John Howard has said publicly that I’ve never broken any Australian law,” he said.

“This has been acknowledged, I never hurt anyone, I never intended to hurt anyone, I never planned to hurt anyone.

“I condemn terror. I went overseas with the intention to help people, to do something.

“Some people may think that it’s a bit weird, a bit strange, impulsive, naive. Okay, but my intentions were good and, unfortunately, I ended up being detained, tortured and accused of being a terrorist.”

In his autobiography, Guantanamo: My Journey, Mr Hicks recounts his early years growing up in Adelaide, his conversion to Islam to gain a sense of belonging and his travels to Kosovo and Kashmir to help suffering civilians.

“[Afghanistan] is such a small part of my story and yet you get the impression from the media that it was the only part of the story,” he said.

“I went to Afghanistan to receive basic military training. I have no problem saying that because that’s what happened.

“I had never heard of the word Al Qaeda until I heard it from the lips of an interrogator in Guantanamo Bay years later.

“There weren’t Al Qaeda training camps where I was. It’s all about Kashmir, my story. It’s not about Afghanistan.”

He said the picture of him shown in the media over the years holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher in what has been reported to be Afghanistan was nothing but a “boy’s trophy shot” taken years earlier in Albania.

He also criticised the Federal Government for its treatment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“It’s serious, and the Australian Government it seems as though they are going to allow him to end up in the hands of the US government and I know from personal experience what’s going to happen to him,” he said.

“He may not end up in Guantanamo but they’re going to create some new dodgy legal system and put him through it and he’ll disappear and when he disappears who knows what will happen to him then because he’s embarrassed a lot of people, all he’s done is exposed a truth.”

Mr Hicks and his father Terry, his long-time supporter, both received standing ovations during the talk.

He said he spent two years writing his book without any help and had married since returning to Australia.

But he said he was still receiving treatment for physical and psychological problems.

“There’s been great, wonderful support from the public in general concerning the book and my situation.”

The Director of Public Prosecutions is expected to make a decision soon on whether profits from his book will be seized under the proceeds of crime legislation.



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