Monday, 3 March 2008

Hicks needs to tell his story, says Dick Smith

THE entrepreneur Dick Smith has been looking for a job for David Hicks in the environment industry but he did not have high hopes he would be successful.

Mr Smith, who denied yesterday he was a "mentor" of Mr Hicks, acknowledged he was contacted by the former Guantanamo Bay inmate six weeks ago to thank him for a three-year campaign Mr Smith had waged for his release. Since then they had met twice, once in Adelaide and again last week in Sydney.

Mr Hicks, convicted of a terrorism-related offence nearly a year ago, asked the entrepreneur whether he could find a job for him. He has reportedly been living in Sydney for two weeks and driving a car, although it is expected he will return to his home in Adelaide.

Mr Smith said he had spent an hour talking to Mr Hicks and was concerned that he lacked confidence. He believed that once Mr Hicks had a chance to tell his story, a different picture would emerge.

"I think it is important that he tell his story to the Australian people. Most of us have only what the Americans told us," he said. "He had five years of interrogation and every single thing he answered was distorted and leaked to the media.

"It was a plea-bargaining arrangement and he would have agreed to anything. He had been at Guantanamo Bay for five years and they told him he would never get out.

"The thing about David Hicks is that he has made some serious errors in his life. When he ended up with the Americans in Afghanistan in 2001, he said, 'This is the most fantastic day of my life, I will be back in Australia in two or three days'."

He said Mr Hicks had initially applied to get into the army but had lacked the educational qualifications. Seeking adventure, he had done what many other Australians had done: gone abroad to join in a conflict.

He had served with the Kosovo Liberation Army, where the infamous photo of him holding a rocket launcher was taken. He had joined the Kashmir Liberation Movement, with which he had done his training.

"But when he went overseas, it was before terrorism as we know it today," Mr Smith said.

"It was before September 11, it was before Bali, it was before the British bombings."

Mr Smith said the fact that Mr Hicks was able to travel around Australia suggested the Government was not as concerned as it purported to be about him.

"I support him because I am a responsible Australian and I would like to see him have a fair trial."

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