The cases of two former Australian Guantanamo Bay prisoners, Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks, have received fresh oxygen after the release of their files by Wikileaks today. I’ve extensively covered them both over the years (Habib and Hicks) and one thing stands out; the sheer dishonesty of Western defenders of the policy and the callous brutality of American interrogators (physical or mental). Some details:
Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib told Egyptian interrogators under “extreme duress” he planned to hijack a Qantas plane and had prior knowledge of the September 11 attacks on the United States, according to newly-released WikiLeaks files.
The documents also allege fellow Australian Guantanamo detainee David Hicks was approached to become a martyr by al-Qa’ida’s number three in charge of military operations, but refused the invitation.
Mr Habib’s Guantanamo prisoner file appears to confirm he was tortured by Egyptian authorities in 2001, making a raft of “admissions” which he later recanted.
In its latest high-profile information release, WikiLeaks has begun releasing 779 secret files from the United States’ notorious Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
The 2004 files classified both Mr Habib and Mr Hicks as “high risk” detainees, with Mr Habib’s file alleging “violent behaviour” by him towards US guards.
Mr Hicks’ file describes him as a “compliant” but “deceptive”. He was held in “high regard” by other detainees, including senior al-Qa’ida operatives.
“The detainee is highly-trained, experienced and combat-hardened, which makes him a valued member and possible leader for any extremist organisation,” it says of Mr Hicks, who was returned to Australia in 2007 after being convicted by a US military commission of providing material support for terrorism.
In an analysts’ note on Mr Hicks’ file, it says: “Mohammed Atef, al-Qa’ida’s No. 3 in charge of military operations, approached detainee regarding his willingness to be a martyr, which the detainee declined.”
In his book, Guantanamo: My Journey, Mr Hicks tells how he left Australia in November 1999 and signed up with the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba, to join “the freedom struggle in Kashmir”.
After he had completed a beginner’s training course, LET sent him to Afghanistan for further training.
He said he reluctantly did a beginners’ course and denied doing any terrorism-related training.
The September 11 attacks occurred a month after Hicks’s final course, when he was in Pakistan.
He went back to Afghanistan after leaving his passport behind, he said, and joined up to fight with the Taliban to defend himself as the US attacked the country.
Mr Habib, who plans to sue the Egyptian government over his detention and alleged torture, told interrogators in Cairo he was en route to hijack a Qantas plane when he was detained, and had information on his home computer on poisoning US rivers.
He also claimed to have trained six of the 9/11 hijackers in martial arts and how to use a knife disguised as a cigarette lighter.
Once at Guantanamo Bay, Mr Habib retracted the confessions, saying he lied to Egyptian interrogators.
Mr Habib was released without charge from Guantanamo Bay in 2005 and returned to Australia.
His file says he had “direct and personal access” to a senior al-Qa’ida official but his US interrogators said his real value to the hardline Islamist terror group was as an Australian organiser and operative.
It contains a note by the Joint Task Force Guantanamo that Mr Habib was regarded as a detainee of “high intelligence value”.
It says he refused to take a polygraph test.
US intelligence officials regarded Mr Habib as a high value asset for his knowledge of al-Qa’ida financing, safe houses, and its training and tactics.
They questioned whether he was a “money courier and terrorist operations facilitator”, given his extensive international travel.
“Among the questions that remain unanswered: how did he afford to travel as extensively as he did while being unemployed and having lost a great deal of money in the matter of his Australian government contract?
“What were the actual number of times he went to Afghanistan, Egypt and the US (records indicate that he entered the US prior to 1993).”
After being arrested in Pakistan, Mr Habib was “rendered” by the CIA to Egypt.
He has described being tortured there by beatings, cigarette burns, electrocution, fingernail removal and near-drowning.
Mr Habib has alleged that Australian officials were involved in his rendition and torture.
After being transferred from Egypt, Mr Habib spent four years in Guantanamo Bay before being released in January 2005.
Mr Habib was last year refused a new passport on the grounds that ASIO still considered him a threat.
His lawyers said the decision was ridiculous, and based on unproven claims.
Mr Habib’s case against Egypt’s new vice-president, Omar Sulaiman, is seen as a human rights test case of the post-Mubarak era in Egypt.
An Australian-led campaign to support David Hicks and clear his name today released the following statement in response to the Wikileaks revelations:
Wikileaks file on David Hicks- The U.S.S. Pettiloo says it all.
The file released on the Wikileaks website only confirms the inaccuracy of information that has been released by the former U.S. administration to the public in relation to David Hicks. The incompetence of the interrogators to obtain reliable and factual information is clear- they failed get Mr Hicks’ name correct, where he was captured, or the name of their own Navy ship- even when utilising interrogation techniques tantamount to torture. Much of the inaccuracies in the file have been addressed in Mr Hicks’ book, however, following is a list for your convenience.
Ø David Hicks’ middle name is Matthew, not Michael
Ø Jama’at Al Tablighi is a peaceful Islamic organisation- this has long been confirmed
Ø Mr Hicks has at no time flown to East Timor- to engage in hostilities, or otherwise
Ø LeT was not listed as a terrorist organisation until 2002, long after Mr Hicks had been detained. The report confirms that no member of LeT had engaged in a terrorist act- they allege an intention, which there is no evidence of. As Mr Hicks explains in his book, LeT dissolved after 2001. The group that calls themselves LeT now is not the same group as it was over a decade ago as it is made up of different people.
Ø Allegations of meeting senior al-Qaeda leadership- Mr Hicks explains in his book that did not hear the word al-Qaeda until he reached Guantanamo Bay- and this was from the mouth of an interrogator. Mr Hicks has not met any people by the names of Abu-Hufs or Mohammed Atef, and the U.S. has not provided any evidence of this.
Ø Mr Hicks did not go to Bagram at all- Mr Hicks was captured by the Northern Alliance at a Taxi stand in Baglan on his way back to Australia. He was then sold to the U.S. for approximately US$5000.
Ø There is no such ship as the Pettiloo- Mr Hicks was transferred to two U.S. Navy ships, the U.S.S. Bataan and the U.S.S Peleliu- what they failed to mention in this report was the 10 hour beatings inflicted on Mr Hicks and the other detainees, and the photos depicting Hicks naked with a bleeding wound on his head due to having his head rammed into the tarmac several times.
Ø As for the report stating that Mr Hicks ‘admitted’ to being a member of al-Qaeda- Any and all statements were obtained under torture, this is why he was not taken through a regularly constituted court. In the final Military Commissions hearing, David’s legal team submitted what is called the Alford Plea. This is a US based plea in which an accused person can agree to plead guilty whilst maintaining innocence. David has always maintained his innocence and strongly denies that he was involved with any terrorist organisations- he did what he had to do to come home.
Ø The report alleges that Mr Hicks led in prayer and was held in high regard by other Guantanamo detainees- Mr Hicks cannot speak Arabic, and his knowledge of the religion would not qualify him to lead prayer. Some detainees thought that Mr Hicks was a spy, so any allegation that he was a leader is simply outrageous.
Ø Any allegation that Mr Hicks was unruly or created disturbances is simply untrue. Former Guantanamo bay guard, Brandon Neely who was on the ground with Mr Hicks has confirmed this recently (link below).
Ø As documents have revealed, detainees were forced to take medication and David was injected in the spine (see link below)
Ø All charges that they quote in the document and the Military Commissions process were ruled as unconstitutional and illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court. Even the final Military Commissions Act of 2006 has been replaced by President Obama due to the unfairness of the system, and the fact that it did not establish a legitimate legal framework.
Ø The report alleges that if Mr Hicks is released, he would be a threat to the U.S. and its allies- Mr Hicks has been a free member of society for over three years, and has proven this to be completely false.
Mr Hicks has never been accused of hurting anyone, participating in, supporting, preparing for or knowing of a terrorist act. The final charge in the Military Commissions hearing was one count under the material support for terrorism charge- which was foreign to Australian and international law- that did not accuse him of personally supporting terrorism, rather, it was alleged that he supported an organisation that supported terrorism. Of note is the fact that it has never been proven that the camps he attended were in fact al-Qaeda. Mr Hicks has never gone through a fair trial process.
This document shows that even back in 2004, Mr Hicks was not suspected and/or accused of hurting any person, or involved in any terrorist acts. The Australian government has always maintained that Mr Hicks has not broken any Australian Law.
“…I objected strongly to the Military Commissions Act that was drafted by the Bush Administration and passed by Congress because it failed to establish a legitimate legal framework…”
President Obama comments on the 2006 Military Commissions Act