I'm not normally one to give any support to somebody who has, apparently, trained with fundamentalist terrorist organisations, but the situation with David Hicks has become absurd. The man has now been held for five years in what are, by all accounts, appalling conditions, without being tried on any charges. There is no serious suggestion that he has committed any heinous war crime or crime against humanity that should attract universal juridiction. He committed no crime in the territory of the United States of America, the country that is holding him prisoner. None of his actions were in breach of the laws of Australia, the country of which he is a citizen.
It strikes me as simply extraordinary that the Australian government excuses its refusal to lobby on Hicks's behalf on the basis that he cannot be tried and punished here because he broke no Australian laws in effect at the time. Well ... let me get this straight, the fact that he broke none of our laws is a reason why we want him to remain in prison. Yeah, right.
Maybe we mean he did something we wish we'd thought to ban at the time - so leaving him now to rot in the hellhole of Guantanamo Bay is a pragmatic substitute for retrospective criminal legislation. If that's the sub-text, we should all be afraid of where current government approaches are taking us.
I don't like seeing Hicks portrayed - as he sometimes is by the media - almost as if he's some sort of hero. He is nothing of the sort. On the other hand, I doubt that he is all that dangerous. If it could be established that he is, then perhaps he needs to be kept under close police surveillance once he is returned to Australia and freed. That's fine, as long as strict process is followed. But Australians should not be acquiescing in the continued imprisonment of a fellow citizen for supposed crimes that he committed outside the territory of the imprisoning power and in breach of no Australian law. Surely we can give this man a little sympathy by now, but more importantly there is a principle here. Bring him home, and be done with it.