Secret reunion brings a hug for Hicks and father
by Penelope Debelle
January 1, 2008
FORMER Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks was secretly reunited with his father yesterday, then spoke publicly for the first time, offering just a handful of words: "I'm doing fine."
The 32-year-old hugged his father, Terry, after meeting him for the first time since he was taken from prison to a secret suburban location.
Terry Hicks introduced his son to The Age after the newspaper discovered the meeting. Hicks was pale-faced and well-spoken with a deep voice. He shook hands in greeting. But in what is believed to have been his first meeting with a reporter since his arrest in Afghanistan six years ago, he also appeared intense, nervous and distrustful around someone he did not know.
Since his release from an Adelaide prison on Saturday, Hicks has been adjusting to life as a free man, trying to enjoy it while also moving from house to house and trying to avoid being recognised. In the middle of an Adelaide heatwave, he has been for a swim, one of the things, along with a beer on the beach, he had most looked forward to.
He has been moving cautiously around the community and has gone out more than once wearing a cap without being recognised, although he has attracted a couple of glances.
"He has had a chance to get out and do his own thing," Terry Hicks said. "He hasn't harmed anyone."
Hicks deferred to his father during the meetings, telling The Age he was doing well but declining to answer questions because of fears about the repercussions of breaching the gag order imposed on him as part of the plea deal he made with the US military.
Terry Hicks said the US military had embedded a deep fear in his son — irrational considering it is unlikely that the US could enforce its demands — and he feared being sent back to Guantanamo Bay.
Mr Hicks said his son, who was released from Yatala after serving a nine-month sentence imposed on him by the US military, needed more "breathing space" before other media learned of his whereabouts.
He asked that people not try to track his son down. "David is asking for time. He is not confident enough to talk fully to the media as yet — this (meeting) was just a lucky coincidence."
Mr Hicks said he had asked not to be told where his son was staying and had received a phone call seeking the reunion.
Hicks was expected to go to the Port Adelaide police station yesterday for his first day of reporting under the terms of an Australian Federal Police control order, but he evaded media and reported elsewhere. On Saturday he slipped undetected into the Port Adelaide station to be fingerprinted hours after being released, but after reporters gathered at the station from 6am yesterday — the time Hicks' night curfew ended — his plans were changed.
Hicks is being shielded by supporters and may be moved from house to house to prevent detection while he rebuilds trust in people and confidence in himself.
His former lawyer, Stephen Kenny, who was the first lawyer allowed to visit a detainee inside the US military's Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, said procedures used there breached the Geneva Convention and were intended to break people.
"The real issue was the manipulative control exercised by the jailers that were designed to break people, and have done quite successfully," Mr Kenny said. "They exercised minute control over people and the biggest and most damaging thing they could do was put them in solitary confinement."
Mr Kenny said he had witnessed Hicks' deterioration at Guantanamo Bay after he was placed in solitary confinement.
Hicks, who withdrew formal allegations that he had been tortured as part of his plea agreement with the US military, spent almost half of his 5½ years at Guantanamo Bay in solitary confinement and will receive counselling to deal with its effects.
Mr Hicks said his son told him yesterday he was taking small steps but knew he needed psychiatric support, which he would begin early this year.
He said his son's concern to avoid detection was based on his lack of confidence and poor social skills after being held in military detention for so long.
He said his son was to be taken to another location last night. "I still don't know where he is. You people came across us by accident."
Mr Hicks, who spoke quietly and calmly to his son, who shares his stocky build and piercing blue eyes, said David suffered from anxiety and had taken three days to recover from an incident in early November when he was taken by federal police to the Holden Hill police station in the back of a van. Mr Hicks said David had suffered extreme anxiety in the van and had felt as though he was back at Guantanamo Bay. As a result of his anxiety, the trip was aborted.
Hicks had hoped to read a statement of thanks on his release on Saturday but was unable to go through with it, leaving it to his lawyer David McLeod to read it to the media.
"The best way for David to handle all this is to lay low for a bit longer," Mr Hicks said. "I know there are people out there who want to talk to him but it's going to achieve nothing."
Hicks is understood to be concerned about the circumstances of a reunion with his children, Bonnie, 14, and Terry, 12, whose mother, Jodie Sparrow, has hired an agent and is believed to be keen to make money out of her connections. Ms Sparrow appeared with her children on Channel Nine's Sixty Minutes program in May and was reported to have done another deal with Nine.
Hicks is keen to see his children, whose photos he had in his cell at Guantanamo Bay and who have visited him in prison, but he is wary of being exposed to the media if he does so.
Mr Hicks said his son would face the media eventually but needed time to heal. "It will take some time and the media and the public have got to be aware of that," he said. "He wants at the moment to just lay as low as possible without the media knowing where he is."
Hicks will not appear in court when the interim control order obtained by federal police returns to the Federal Magistrates Court for confirmation on February 18 but it is understood his lawyers will seek to reduce the reporting provisions from three times a week to once.
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