Another moment to test the compassion of the Australian public, as the news has broken that David Hicks is to be released from prison, albeit under a control order. Although the Federal Police regard Mr Hicks as an ongoing danger it would seem that he currently poses little risk to others, considering his mental state (Sydney Morning Herald, 24/12/07):
DAVID HICKS’S mental condition is so fragile that – only five days before his scheduled release from jail – he suffers from agoraphobia and retreats to the kind of solitary confinement he endured for five years in Guantanamo Bay.The former Muslim extremist has suffered panic attacks and has ventured into the sunshine, in the prison yard, only once since his return to Australia in May this year to serve the balance of his nine-month sentence at Yatala Labour Prison in Adelaide. He could not cope and preferred the enclosed prison and artificial lighting, where he felt more safe.
Is it any surprise to read that Mr Hicks experiences panic attacks and agoraphobia, after his incarceration at Guantanamo Bay? Imprisoned without trial for 5 years, kept in solitary and tortured with impunity, his case was a convenient political football for the Howard Government’s war on terror (until suddenly it wasn’t). His treatment is a sobering example of what any Australian citizen could experience if they are caught ideologically on the wrong side. Regardless of the legality of Mr Hick’s actions, Australia’s government was willing to trade away the country’s humanitarian values for political reasons.
I hope that Mr Hicks can be supported to lead a productive and peaceful life on his release, after all, isn’t this what Australia really stands for – a fair go?