November 20, 2008 / 1:37 AM / 9 years ago

Australia Guantanamo inmate breaks silence

CANBERRA (Reuters) - The only Guantanamo Bay inmate convicted of terrorism offences, Australian David Hicks, has broken his self-imposed silence, calling on police to relax stringent controls over his freedom since his release from jail.

Hicks, 33, in a video released on Thursday, said a court-imposed order imposing a midnight-to-dawn curfew, restrictions on his travel and a requirement to report to police twice a week was blocking his return to normality.

“I don’t know what the future holds for me. 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 said in the video, released through the Australian rights group GetUp!.

Hicks returned to Australia from the U.S. military prison on the island of Cuba in May last year after pleading guilty to terrorism charges. He left prison in his hometown of Adelaide last December.

Hicks appeared largely impassive, wearing a blue open-necked shirt for his brief appearance. He told Australians he needed “help.”

He was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001 and spent five years in Guantanamo before becoming the first person to be sentenced under the alternate war crimes tribunals created by the Bush administration to try non-American captives.

The former kangaroo skinner admitted training with al Qaeda and meeting its leader Osama bin Laden, whom he described as “lovely,” according to police evidence given to the court.

Under a plea bargain with U.S. military authorities, Hicks agreed to a gag order barring him from talking about his experiences for a year, which ended in March.

But Hicks in the video said while he would one day tell his story and explain why he joined al Qaeda and ended up in Guantanamo, he was “still recovering from that ordeal.”

“I‘m not yet ready to explain what happened or why,” he said.

He said he was worried Australian police would in February seek to extend the one-year court order, which is only the second placed on an Australian under anti-terrorism laws introduced following the September 11 attacks in the United States.

Under the order Hicks is unable to leave the country and is barred from possessing explosives, firearms or any materials related to weapons, combat skills or military tactics.

Hicks reportedly suffers from agoraphobia. His legal team and supporters say he is receiving wide public support and offers for work, though he remains mentally fragile after Guantanamo.

GetUp! National Director Simon Sheikh said Hicks’s case underscored the need for a re-think on Australia’s anti-terrorism laws, which he said compromised human rights for security.

Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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