Friday, December 28, 2007

Australian Gitmo Convict to Be Released

ADELAIDE, Australia - An Australian who became the first person convicted at a U.S. war crimes trial since World War II leaves prison on Saturday, apologetic for "what he's supposed to have done and what people believe he's done," his father said.

David Hicks, who was captured fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in December 2001, pleaded guilty in March to providing material support to al-Qaida after more than five years at at Guantanamo prison and returned to Australia to serve out his sentence.

He is due to be released in his home town of Adelaide but will face strict controls on his movement because he was judged a security risk.

"He's looking forward to finally stepping out into the open," said Hicks' father, Terry, adding his son wants to go to find a job to fund university courses in environmental studies. "All he wants is to get out and try and get some sort of normality."

The 32-year-old former kangaroo skinner's long detention at Guantanamo without trial strained ties between Washington and one of its closest allies in the fight against terrorism.

A U.S. military tribunal sentenced Hicks - a Muslim convert who has since renounced the faith - to seven years in prison in March after he confessed to aiding al-Qaida during the U.S-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

All but nine months of the sentence was suspended, and under a plea bargain Hicks was allowed to serve the remainder at a maximum security prison in South Australia state. He was told to remain silent about any alleged abuse he suffered while in custody.

Under the deal, Hicks forfeited any right to appeal his conviction and agreed not to speak with news media for a year from his sentencing date.

Terry Hicks said his son would issue a brief statement through his lawyer on Saturday.......

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