David Hicks, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee from Australia, said Thursday that he was still suffering from the physical injuries inflicted on him during his detention. Hicks, who claimed that he was tortured for five years, was declared innocent by a U.S. military court on Wednesday.
Hicks was captured in Afghanistan in 2002 and was among the first prisoners sent to the detention camp in Cuba. After being held for nearly five years without being charged, he was convicted on a terrorism-related offence in March 2007. Hicks had reportedly pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorism. But, according to the U.S. Court of Military Commissions Review, such activity did not become a crime until years after Hicks was captured by members of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, Hicks reportedly said that he wants the Australian government to pay for treatment of his injuries resulting from torture, adding that he is yet to decide whether to seek broader compensation in his home country.
“I do think that someone should be responsible for my medical expenses,” Reuters quoted Hicks as saying. “I was subjected to five-and-a-half years of physical and psychological torture that I will now live with always.”
Although Hicks had acknowledged that he had been trained at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan and had met Osama bin Laden, his lawyers claimed that he was pressurized to make the guilty plea. According to them, Hicks had suffered years of beatings, sexual assaults and sleep deprivation at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that the government would not apologize to Hicks following the repeal of his 2007 terrorism conviction.
“We did what was needed but, look, let's not forget whatever the legalities, and this was essentially a matter for an American court dealing with American law. He was up to no good on his own admission,” The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Abbott as saying. “I'm not in the business of apologizing for the actions that Australian governments take to protect our country. Not now, not ever.”
Hicks, who was allowed to return to Australia after his conviction in 2007, reportedly got into a tense exchange with reporters on Wednesday. When asked what he was doing in Afghanistan before he was captured, Hicks said that he was “having a holiday.”