Hicks admitted training with Richard Reid
AUSTRALIAN terror suspect David Hicks was secretly interrogated in Guantanamo Bay by British intelligence agency MI5 and admitted to training with several terrorists including the infamous "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, according to new claims from the Blair Government.
In an extraordinary twist to the Hicks saga, the British Government is using the contents of MI5's secret 2003 interview to deny the Australian detainee his application for a British passport.
According to lawyers representing the Home Office, Hicks admitted during the interview to extensive terrorist training in Kashmir and Afghanistan, and also that he had met the late Abu Hafs, an al-Qaeda kingpin who was anointed by Osama bin Laden as his successor just before his violent death in 2001.
The revelations emerged in Britain's High Court on Friday, as Home Secretary Charles Clarke fought an appeal against last year's ruling that he should grant Hicks British citizenship immediately, on the basis that the detainee's mother was born in Britain. Hicks' father, Terry, yesterday fought back on his son's behalf against the allegations, raising the spectre of torture, and said his son should be subject to all the protection afforded to other detainees who were British citizens.
He is planning to personally ask Tony Blair for help with his son's plight when the British Prime Minister arrives in Australia next weekend. "He's not in a real good way," he said of his son. "The quicker we get him back here, the better off David will be."
In London, counsel for the British Government told the High Court that the Government had sent a letter to Hicks' lawyers setting out why Mr Clarke is unwilling to make Hicks a British citizen.
The Home Secretary, according to the letter, dated December last year and seen by The Sunday Age, intends to "rely on admissions made by Mr Hicks in an interview with the Security Service (known more generally as MI5) on 26 April, 2003 in Guantanamo Bay".
"In particular, Mr Hicks admitted the following: attending a Lashkar Tayyaba (sic) training camp in Kashmir in around 2000 . . . attending the Al Farooq system of camps in Afghanistan in around 2001 . . . (and) receiving training in weapons and guerilla warfare."
Hicks also admitted, according to the letter, "meeting and training with a number of UK nationals known to be Islamic extremists including Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga, Richard Reid and Sajid Badat".
Reid, the British-born "shoe bomber" who unsuccessfully attempted to blow up his sneakers on a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001, is now serving a life sentence in the US.
Badat, his accomplice, was sentenced last year to 13 years in a British prison. Abbasi and Mubanga, however, are at liberty in Britain, having been released from Guantanamo Bay in January 2005.
The British Government secured the release of all British citizens from the prison through a deal with the US Government, and neither Mr Abbasi nor Mr Mubanga have subsequently been charged with any offence.
An irritated Michael Fordham, barrister for David Hicks, told the court it was "inconsistent" for Mr Clarke to condemn Hicks for his association with the likes of Mubanga and Abbasi.
"They were in Guantanamo! They were released! They have been arrested and interviewed in this country, and no charges were laid!" he protested.
Terry Hicks said the British Government was treating his son like a "political football".
"If the law says he is eligible for British citizenship, well that's it," he said. "The nine Brits who were released from Guantanamo Bay probably had the same alliances, and some of the stuff that has come out about David could possibly be hearsay."
Posted by: Dan Darling 2006-03-19