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Father of David Hicks cannot find out if government is trying to get his son home from Guantanamo Bay.

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Tuesday 27 May 2003

Father of David Hicks cannot find out if government is trying to get his son home from Guantanamo Bay


MARK COLVIN: The father of interned Australian, D avid Hicks, has had another frustrating day trying to get the Government to tell him if they're trying to get his son home. But it has emerged that three ASIO officers are at Guantanamo Bay right now to interrogate David Hicks and his fellow Australian, Mamdouh Habib. 


Terry Hicks and his lawyer flew to Canberra today hoping that someone in the Federal Government would tell him what fate awaits his son, who's been detained without charge at Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay on Cuba since December 2001. 


Mr Hicks sat in the public gallery of Federal Parliament as the Prime Minister refused to divulge any details of talks between Australia and the US. 


Alexandra Kirk reports from Canberra. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Terry Hicks has spent the past 18 months knocking on doors, and today tried to knock on a few more around Parliament House. 


TERRY HICKS: It's over 500 days, so it can't go on too much longer… someone that's being held without charges, I mean, it's ridiculous. Our only way now is to front up here and ask questions here.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: But his experience proved to be just as fruitless as all his other attempts to determine the fate of his son. 


TERRY HICKS: As far as I know is that the Government have never asked for him back from the Americans. This is one of our concerns today, is to find out why they haven't asked. We've approached Daryl Williams, we've approached Prime Minister, we've approached them all and they declined to speak to us.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Do they want to know about your son? 


TERRY HICKS: I don't think so, no. Their normal response is that there's ongoing investigations and leave it at that.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: With no news, Terry Hicks wants the Prime Minister to ask the United States to send his son back to Australia. And as he watched from the public gallery this was what the Prime Minister had to say in response to a question from the Greens.  


JOHN HOWARD: Discussions are underway regarding Mr Hicks and I think at this stage it is not appropriate for me to say anything further other than that on the basis of what I have been told by the Attorney General, he is well satisfied with the progress of those discussions, particularly in relation to the position of Mr Hicks in the event of him facing any kind of trial or arraignment in the United States.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Terry Hicks says it's clear his son hasn't broken any Australian laws, making it hard for the Americans, who want him charged and jailed, to release him. Mr Hicks reckons the Federal Government doesn't want to ask for his son's repatriation because it would be embarrassing for the Americans.  


TERRY HICKS: The Americans, from what I can gather don’t really want to release him back here unless there is charges and there's no charges. I mean, after 18 months surely they could find something? If they can't, well, you let him go.  


ALEXANDRA KIRK: But while Mr Hicks hasn't had a very productive day, the Federal Opposition has managed to winkle a little more information in a Senate Estimates Hearing, from ASIO Chief, Denis Richardson, who says three ASIO officers have been at Guantanamo Bay for the past couple of days to speak to Mr Hicks again.  


DENIS RICHARDSON: It's following up the enquiries we made of them in November.  


UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: And what were those enquiries? 


DENIS RICHARDSON: Oh, about their activities, relationships and connections,  

to enable us to better understand al-Qaeda's links and connections, both within Australia and between Australia and other countries and also relationships between individuals who have been involved with al-Qaeda.  


UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: Can you explain what's the… what do you need to find out more specifically from Mr Hicks or Mr Habib? 


DENIS RICHARDSON: Well, it's really what I said before.  


UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: So can't say what sort of questions are being asked or are we going then into… well? 




UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: I understand. I won't even ask it. I'll withdraw that. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Denis Richardson says as a matter of course, the ASIO officers will talk to those who run Guantanamo Bay about the wellbeing of David Hicks and fellow Australian, Mamdouh Habib, and the information will be passed on to those in the Government who have contact with their families. 


MARK COLVIN: Alexandra Kirk.