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- Fred's Diary - 2004 May 29

[Public Meeting: Justice for Hicks & Habib]

Public Meeting: Justice for Hicks & Habib

6:00pm - Granville Youth & Recreation Services, 3 Memorial Drive, Granville.

[PLEASE NOTE: These are my paraphrased notes from the talk, not direct quotes -- Fred]

[Meeting proper started around 6:20pm]

Donna Mulhearn [Chair]:

It's good to see the group gathered ; sad that the community as to call the government to account to pursue justice for its citizens. [... Donna spent the last 6 months in Iraq and that country is a disaster ...]. The Iraqis (in custody? in general?) are like Hicks & Habib - locked away and their keepers are unaccountable. [... Donna was in Falujah at the peak of the fighting and asked a sheik, the imam of a local mosque, what message he would like to communicate (?to the world outside the siege) ...]. His message was to George Bush: "Just tell the truth. About why he came to Iraq. About what is being done to its citizens." (Donna's? Sheik's?) message to Howard: "Be accountable".

<Music by Dennis Cimen (Saz player) [extraordinary - just 15yo - only picked up the instrument over the last year]>

[Donna Mulhearn <chair> introduces Stephen Hopper - Bankstown solicitor, acting for Mamdouh Habib]

Stephen Hopper:

Usually speaking to cameras ; it's nice to see a live crowd in support [of Habib & Hicks & their families]. My theme is "Truth". I've promised to stop telling the truth about John Howard if he'll stop telling lies about my client. <laughter & applause>.

[About a week ago] Maha Habib (Mamdouh Habib's wife) & I went to London [to speak to some of the British citizens recently released from Guantanamo Bay]. One of them, Tarek Dergoul spent 2 years in Guantanamo Bay ; was in Afghanistan with some friends to do a property deal, reasoning that real-estate prices would be low now and would pick up later ; it was an ill-fated venture into capitalism <some chuckles>. A bomb landed on the house, killing his friends. Tarek was outside the house, was hit by shrapnel, survived for 4 days on some raisins and biscuits ; his arm had become infected from shrapnel wounds ; he was picked up by Northern Alliance forces & bartered to U.S. troops for the $5000 bounty for captured Taliban fighters. He was transferred to Bagram airforce base for interrogation & where his injuries were not treated ; transferred a month later to a prison camp in Kandahar where his infected arm had to be amputated along with a toe lost to frostbite (a treatable condition, but he'd received no treatment). Transferred to Camp Xray in Guantanamo Bay in May 2002, shortly before Mamdouh Habib (?arrived).

Tarek described Mamdouh as dazed & confused ; Mamdouh could not open his eyes, had been beaten & tortured in Egypt ; Mamdouh was then put in isolation in Camp Xray. Tarek next saw Mamdouh a year later and heard more details from him about his treatment in Egypt. Australian officials in October 2001 has authorised his removal from Pakistan to Egypt ; the Australian government [denies ?some aspect of this?]. Mamdouh was in Egypt for 5 months, then moved to Bagram airforce base, then Guantanamo Bay.

Maha Habib has received no letters from Mamdouh for a year now; in London, she was told [by Tarek Dergoul & fellow released detainee Jamal al-Harith] that the U.S. jailers at Guantanamo bay had told Mamdouh that Maha and their children were dead. [More eye-witness descriptions related by Tarek Dergoul & Jamal al-Harith of mistreatment at Guantanamo Bay ; Jamal showed the wounds to his feet and wrists from shackles].

The U.S. government says it has a process for trying the inmates in Guantanamo Bay ; the Australia government says this is a fair process. I am not gagged yet like <the lawyer representing David Hicks> : the only evidence allowed [in the military tribunals planned for Guantanamo inmates] are testimony obtained from the inmate charged and other inmates. This has no resemblance to a normal court [some reference to something/someone that sounded like "Polly Eukovich" and international law]. No normal court would admit as evidence testimony obtained under duress. This stinks of something a totalitarian state would do. Alexander Downer says there's no evidence of mistreatment of the Guantanamo Detainees. John Howard says the U.S. would never mistreat the Guantanamo detainees.

Donna Mulhearn <chair>:

[Some remarks about having some evidence of her own for Alexander Downer with regard to U.S. snipers shooting Iraqi citizens] Introduces Kerry Nettle, Greens Senator.

Kerry Nettle:

[Acknowledgment of Aboriginal land]

[Hicks & Habib] have been absolutely failed by the Australian government. [Thankful that at least Major Michael Mori, the military, the lawyer that the Pentagon has appointed to represent David Hicks, is at least doing something]. We have to support the families [of Hicks & Habib] as a result of what the Australian government has done in cahoots with George Bush. It makes you ashamed : the government is supposed to represent the rights of Australian citizens and advocate for them in the international arena.

There is a climate of fear. Supreme court Izhar ul-Haque ; medical student ; detained twice under ASIO legislation ; cooperated ; $200K bail ; *prosecution* said he represented no threat. Laws brought in by Howard (& Latham). More legislation coming targeted toward Hicks & Habib - govt wants to ensure they're gagged, can't make any profit. [aside from later talks - this may preclude them from writing any books]. Bob Brown is in Washington, wanted to see Hicks/Habib ; Downer hadn't got back - they don't actually want to say no to a senator ; Brown meeting with Mori.

Our govt should be ensuring Australian citizens brought back & released if not charged. Even china getting about 50 citizens out [Nettle expresses doubts about their welfare]. Howard trying to get Hicks & Habib into military court - George Bush ultimate decision.

[Thanks group]

[Screening of excerpt from "The President vs David Hicks" doccumentary]

Terry Hicks:

[Waiting for Supreme Court to decide whether Xray is US soil. Hicks trying 2 1/2 years to get proper process ; no charges. David put report into Red Cross 2002 ; govt "doesn't know" ; govt hopes it will be forgotten ; it falls back on community to put pressure on the government.]

Maha Habib:

[Thanks group gathered - it makes her feel she's not by herself. Where to start? What family has been through ; youngest was 1yo when Mamdouh left, she's now 4 ; asks questions ; pretends to talk to Mamdouh on the phone ; can't tell 11yo about London ; 16yo is really lost. Asked people to pray for the family]

Jeremy Styles:

[Thanks Terry Hicks & Maha Habib; they are profoundly courageous to view others in a worse position than themselves] Some weeks ago Alexander Downer was saying [people claiming abuse occurred in Guantanamo Bay need to come up with evidence]. The London trip may provide Downer with incentive to act. [Actions of federal government beating up the terrorism issue can be compared to the state government on law & order].

[Re the release of Izhar ul-Haque - where prosecution admitted Izhar was no threat -- something I didn't catch about lack of evidence] Justice Peter Hidden granted bail, but other [Justices] may not have. It gets worse -- last Thursday Phillip Ruddock announced [?changes to the ASIO act ?new ASIO bills] which would result in less access for lawyers to their clients and information.

[That prosecution of Guantanamo inmates being based on testimony obtained under duress] is neither fair nor just -- it's reprehensible. [Most acts of terrorism - harming people or property - are also offenses under civil/criminal law] In the [normal process of law] we'd call what they've alleged to have done a crime & then set due process in action. They will not have the rights in a military tribunal that citizens would have [in a normal court case].

The government should be lobbying on behalf of the interests of its citizens [not putting them at risk]. It's a tragedy that it has taken us revelations about abuses in Iraq by the U.S. military to get media attention for [concern about the treatment of] Australian citizens in Guantanamo. The Australian government has not been called to order as the U.S. government has been.

The organisers of this meeting should be thanked, and all of us should keep coming to such meetings, writing letters [other assorted actions to raise awareness & put pressure on the government to do what it should] [Thanked Terry Hicks & Maha Habib]

Donna Mulhearn <chair>:

[Thanked speakers]

[20 min break before questions]

Questions & comments from the group gathered:

Comment: [Request to put pressure on the federal opposition to make their position clear]

Comment: [Something about Australian troops and the 'Dateline' program on SBS] [Australian military & federal police engaging in "torture lite" in the Solomon Islands. Prisons are on the up & up. Something about exploitation of working people ...]

Comment: [U.S. activity in Argentina / Latin America ; Iraq reminiscent of Latin America ; Howard's "no one told me" theme ; need independent party to contact Hicks & Habib ...]

Question: [U.N. silent on ?Iraq ?Palestine. Something about a Ramsay Clark commission, Gulf War I, and civil liberties in Guantanamo bay -- apparently a question was buried in somewhere in the ramble]

Answer: [Stephen Hopper] [The U.N. was set up to prevent the kinds of genocides perpetrated after World War II ; U.S. took control ; U.N. used as a propaganda tool against communism ... something about Palestine, Vietnam, Gulf War ... U.S. not accountable to anyone.]

Question: [Is <something> committee against torture investigating Guantanamo Bay, doing spot checks on implements used in interrogations?]

Answer: [Jeremy Styles] [Not sure if U.S. is a signatory. Inspections by the committee are only undertaken with the consent of the nation involved. The Red Cross has taken some statements from Guantanamo inmates, but that's not likely to go further.]

Question: [Frightening to hear what Australian government is doing to civil rights. Re Kerry Nettle's comments: if Hicks/Habib come back, does the proposed legislation gag them even if they make no profit from their story?]

Answer: [?Kerry Nettle - didn't note it down] [Hicks/Habib would not be gagged, only forbidden from making a profit {would that preclude them from writing books directly? -- Fred}. Other legislation reduces the capacity of the media to tell stories (e.g. that of Jack Roche) - Editors don't want journalists to have 5 year jail sentences, but people who are not involved with terrorism but who have information (?even a journalist with someone's story?) may be caught in the legislation.

Question: [Something about events in Iraq forming a focus/reason/connection with Guantanamo Bay]


Question: [Bill-of-rights and anti-terrorism measures]


Question: [Red Cross access to Hicks & Habib]

Answer: [Jeremy Styles] A condition of access for the Red Cross is confidentiality ; the Red Cross can only pass vague messages to relatives ; the Red Cross can express concerns but can't give details of those concerns. All detention centres should have independent accountability.

Statement: [We should support the campaign for Hicks & Habib. What can we do?]

Answer: [Bloke organizing attempt by Maha Habib to give a letter to Mr Howard details the location & time next morning of Mr Howard's exit from Channel 7 studios in ?Epping]

Question: [How can we distinguish terrorism from freedom fights & civil libertarians? <Joke about not wanting to be arrested by mistake>]


Question: [Re Bill of Rights & Free Trade Agreement]


Donna Mulhearn <chair>:

[Donna was in Iraq when the abuse stories broke - Iraqis were asking why the courtmartialed U.S. military received a fair trial -- a fair trial is all they wanted for the Iraqi prisoners.]

[Closing remarks ; announcements by assorted people about upcoming events]

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