A former al-Qaeda-linked prisoner at the U.S. military detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who was released in 2007, has been charged with assaulting his partner in Australia.
The Associated Press (AP) identifies David Hicks, 41, as the first prisoner held at the prison, also known as Gitmo.
On Tuesday, David Hicks appeared in court in his hometown of Adelaide for a pretrial hearing on a charge that he assaulted his partner in September. The charge carries up to a two-year sentence behind bars. Hicks has yet to file a plea but has been released on bail to appear before a judge again on February 28.
The Muslim convert was captured in Afghanistan by the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in late 2001 as a suspected enemy combatant, then spent more than five years at Guantanamo Bay.
He pleaded guilty in a U.S. Court of Military Commission in 2007 to providing material support to terrorism. It was a plea bargain in which all but nine months of his seven-year sentence was suspended and he was allowed to return to Adelaide to serve the final months.
The U.S. Court of Military Commission Review, an appeals court, struck down his conviction in 2015. Hicks says he only pleaded guilty to get out of Guantanamo Bay.
Nevertheless, AP cites court records that show that the former Gitmo detainee traveled to Pakistan in 2000, where he joined the U.S.-designated terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and participated in an attack on forces from Pakistan’s regional rival India.
“He later went to Afghanistan and attended a training camp run by al-Qaida and visited by its leader Osama bin Laden,” notes AP.” Hicks only real fighting experience was helping to guard a Taliban tank near the Kandahar airport.”
The Australian Prime Minister at the time that the U.S. military court struck down Hicks’s conviction, Tony Abbott, refused to apologize to the former Gitmo prisoner, saying he had been “up to no good on his own admission” in Afghanistan in 2001, reported the Guardian.
Moreover, a spokesman for John Howard, the Australian PM at the time Hicks was detained and later transferred to Australia, said the former Gitmo prisoner “revelled in jihad. He is not owed an apology by any Australian government.”
The United Nations human rights committee did rule last February that the Australian government violated Hicks’s rights by keeping him in jail for months under a transfer deal with the United States.
Hicks had been taken to Guantánamo in January 2002 after his arrest in Afghanistan in 2001.
After taking a plea deal in March 2007, the Australian was convicted under the US Military Commission Act 2006 with “providing material support for terrorism” and sentenced to seven years with most of it suspended.
In May 2007, he was ultimately transferred to Australia where he served the remaining seven months of his prison sentence.