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Downer misleads Australian Parliament on Hicks.



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KEVIN RUDD M.P.

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Security

DOWNER MISLEADS AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT ON HICKS

Alexander Downer told Parliament in November that David Hicks was “being treated humanely”.

This was in response to a Question in Parliament. Specifically, Mr Downer replied:

“The treatment of detainees is a matter for the US. Australian officials who have visited David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib on several occasions have noted they are being treated humanely.”

However, in DFAT Senate Estimates yesterday Secretary of Consular Services Mr Ian Kemish said that when Australian officials visited Guantanamo Bay in 2003 Hicks told them he had been beaten in late-2001.

Could it possibly be that Foreign Minister Downer is making some politically cute distinction between allegations of Hicks having been beaten in Guantanamo bay on the one hand, or whether he had been beaten prior to being sent to

Guantanamo bay - but while still in US custody.

Either way, Hicks’ statement to Australian officials in May 2003 fundamentally undermines the integrity of Mr Downer’s formal statement to the Parliament six months later in November.

Mr Downer has a habit of being loose with the truth on national security. Loose with the truth on Iraqi WMD. Loose with the truth on his previously announced timetable for military withdrawal from Iraq. Loose with the truth Australian official knowledge of allegations of prisoner abuse in Iraq. And now loose with the truth yet again on Australian official knowledge of allegations abuse towards David Hicks.

Ends. 4 June 2004

Media contact: Alister Jordan 0417 605 823