This article belongs to Australia - Land of the Free? column.

Most of the news reports have been about how badly the US and Australian Governments have handled the capture and subsequent incarceration of Hicks.


But, what about the man?


This is important for the people of Adelaide like the writer. I live within ten kilometres of Yatala Jail and only a little further from where David Hicks is likely to live when he is released in nine months time.

            The Premier of South Australia, Mike Rann, has sought an assurance from the Federal Government that Hicks would not pose a threat to the public when released. This has resulted in a slanging match between the Premier and the Prime Minister without any assurances being given.


So let's assume Premier Rann is serious and not just playing politics. What does he expect Hicks to do?


We know Hicks trained in guerrilla warfare, so perhaps he will hide in the Adelaide Hills and attack trucks on the South Eastern Freeway. He was trained in weapons, so we can expect him shoot someone just because of his training. Maybe he'll lay landmines in the parklands to trap unwary walkers.  He was trained in surveillance, kidnapping and assassination so high profile people had better watch out.

            No, his contacts with al Qaeda and the ease with which he could activate them into a terrorist cell in Adelaide are what most people fear.


Is David Hicks the innocent adventurer or is he something far more sinister? That is the question uppermost in the minds of South Australians.

Let's face it, if Hicks had not abandoned his young family and his

country of birth to go off and fight for the bad guys, he would never have languished in a jail cell for five years.


The confusion continues because after David Hicks pleaded guilty to ‘providing material support for terrorism' his father Terry Hicks stated he only did it so he could get out Guantanomo Bay. The implication is David Hicks is not guilty. By the way if I was ever in trouble I'd like to have a father like Terry Hicks.


So what are his terrible crimes? In 1999, Hicks served in the Kosovo Liberation Army fighting against Serbian forces for two months. He returned to Australia and applied to join the Australian Army but was rejected because of his low level of formal education. He converted to Islam and studied Arabic.

            In November 1999 Hicks entered Pakistan to further his Islamic studies. He trained with Lashkar-e-Toiba and learnt guerrilla warfare, weapons training, land mines, kidnapping and assassination. Hicks trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and appeared to have favoured status among the recruits. He studied surveillance and used his new found abilities on the US and British embassies in Kabul. He claimed to have met Osama bin Laden eight times and spoke to him once.

            Hicks was interviewed by senior al- Qaeda commanders about his background and the travel habits of Australians.

Later the US Department of Defense claimed "That after viewing TV news coverage in Pakistan of the September 11 2001 attacks against the United States, Hicks returned to Afghanistan to rejoin his al-Qaeda associates to fight against US, British, Canadian, Australian, Afghan, and other coalition forces." They alleged he armed himself with an AK47 automatic rifle, ammunition and grenades to fight against coalition forces.

Hicks claimed in a letter to his father that he was going to defend Kabul against the Northern Alliance.

He was captured by a Northern Alliance Warlord on or about December 9 2001 near Kundaz, Afghanistan, and turned over to US Special Forces for $1,000 on December 17, 2001.


To understand David Hicks' story the only interview are transcripts of a Federal Police interview and dramatised using actors by Debbie Whitmont on the 31/10/2005 for the ABC Four Corners Program conducted at Guantanamo Bay.

Hicks left school early and had been employed boning chickens, filleting kangaroos, recycling tyres etc. By the time he was 24, he had a broken relationship, two small children and he'd picked up some bad habits, such as drugs.

After travelling to Japan, Hicks realised there was another way to live and after being refused by the Australian Army he was bitten with the travel bug, he saw himself travelling the Silk route on a horse.

Some of what Hicks said during his Federal Police Interview gave us an insight into what he was thinking. ‘I had to learn once and for all what is Islam and speak to a Muslim to find out what is this life he's living, what is

 his beliefs and thoughts,' said Hicks.

            When asked about stating in his letters home that he had met bin Laden 20 times Hicks answered thus. ‘You've got … at times, I've been excited, maybe tried to be a big shot, right? So try and explain all the letters. You imagine someone like me coming from Adelaide and stepping into this world. Spies, politics, wars. You know what I mean. Like, it's too big to handle. So a lot of this, like, other stuff I just read hear, I say it's a load of crap.'

            When asked who he thought he was training to fight against. ‘Against anyone suppressing Muslims, you know? You've got … you've got people from so many different organisations training … taking training from al-Qaeda, but they come from different parts of the world. So the organisations full of all these people doing these things for these types. Different intentions.'


On September 11th, 2001 Hicks saw the al-Qaeda attacks on TV. When asked what he thought about it. ‘It's not Islam, is it? It's like the opposite of what I was … wanted to do. Meant to help the people, stop oppression. And they did the opposite.'

            When asked why he returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan and subsequently was caught up in the fighting. ‘I'm spewing about that I went back. I mean, I could have left my stuff behind if I knew what was gonna happen. I could have stayed behind in Pakistan and not gone back. But, I would have lost all my Islam. It might sound stupid. I've got lots of nice Islamic clothes I'd been saving. There's lots of money in them, with the stuff I could have had a home.'


Certainly David Hicks does not appear to be a calculating person that knows exactly what he wants. In fact, he appears to be just what his legal team, his father, and David himself says he is. A naïve young man seeking adventures that got caught up in war and suffered the consequences.


I don't think the people of Adelaide have anything to worry about.