- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

U.S. NAVAL BASE GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — An Australian terror suspect facing a military tribunal here was physically abused by his U.S. captors after being apprehended in Afghanistan almost three years ago, the man’s parents said yesterday.

“He’s been abused,” said Terry Hicks, father of 29-year-old David Hicks, a convert to Islam who is charged by the U.S. military with attempted murder and joining and aiding al Qaeda.

The accused man’s father told reporters that his son said the abuse occurred before he had been transported from Afghanistan, where he was captured in December 2001, to Guantanamo.

Yesterday Hicks sat silently between his military-appointed and civilian defense attorneys as the second military commission conducted by the United States since World War II got under way here.

Hicks voiced a plea of “not guilty” to all of the charges leveled against him by the Pentagon.

According to military prosecutors, Hicks at one point consulted with Osama bin Laden over a project to translate materials from Arabic to English for use at a training camp in Afghanistan.

Hicks’ parents were allowed two brief visits with their son yesterday. “[It] was pretty emotional,” the senior Mr. Hicks said of the reunion. “David seemed OK,” he said, but added that his son is “worrying about the mental side of it.”

Mr. Hicks also said that during their visits yesterday, his son “told us some unpleasant stories.”

“His treatment during the early part wasn’t very pleasant,” the senior Mr. Hicks said, adding that “the report from the English is correct,” referring to joint statement issued early this month by three British men know as the “Tipton Three” who where held at Guantanamo for two years but have since been released to Britain.

According to British news accounts, Hicks and another Australian terror suspect held at the prison told the three Britons that they had been severely beaten and denied medical treatment.

Mr. Hicks added he and his wife, Bev, have written many letters to their son but learned yesterday that when their son received the letters inside the prison, all references to “love” had been edited out of them. “Two and a half years in a situation like this, it’s pretty hard on him,” the senior Mr. Hicks said.

Hicks is the second of four men whose military commissions are beginning this week. President Bush authorized the commissions in the months after September 11 as a venue for trying the 585 terror suspects detained here in the war on terror.

The first case, involving Yemeni terror suspect Salim Ahmed Hamdan, opened on Tuesday. Hamdan, however, did not enter a plea. Dec. 3 was set as potential trial date.

Jan. 10 was set as the potential trial date for the Hicks case. Military officials have said the death penalty is not being sought in either case.

Human rights groups here to observe the commissions criticize it as an unfair system that stacks the deck against the defendants and limits their rights.

The case also raises questions about the legitimacy of the military commissions, given that in July 2002 the case of John Walker Lindh, a young American with a strikingly similar story to that of Hicks, was resolved in an U.S. federal court.

Lindh, 22, who had fled an affluent background in Northern California, was captured while fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan around the same time as Hicks. However, their paths since then have taken radically different tracks. Lindh is now serving 20 years in a U.S. prison after pleading guilty to criminal charges in federal court.

Hicks, on the other hand, faces an uncertain fate as his case grinds forward into a system of military justice being challenged by one of the very lawyers appointed to uphold it.

In April, when the commissions were still being formed, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, who is acting as the defense counsel in the Hamdan case, filed a lawsuit in Seattle federal court challenging the legality of the entire commission process.

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