boston.com your connection to The Boston Globe

Al Qaeda supporter is back in Australia

Ex-Guantanamo inmate will serve 7 months in prison

David Hicks was at Guantanamo for more than five years. David Hicks was at Guantanamo for more than five years.

SYDNEY -- David Hicks, the first inmate at the Guantanamo Bay detention center to face a US military tribunal, was flown back to his hometown in Australia yesterday to serve out the remainder of his sentence in a maximum security prison cell.

The former outback cowboy and kangaroo skinner pleaded guilty in March to providing material support to Al Qaeda, including attending terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

Under a plea deal, he was sentenced to nine months in prison -- a fraction of the life term he could have received -- and was allowed to return to Australia to serve out his term.

Accompanied by police and prison officials, Hicks was flown from the US military camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in a jet chartered by the Australian government and landed yesterday at the Edinburgh air force base on the outskirts of Adelaide.

Shackled and wearing an orange jumpsuit, Hicks, 31, was then taken to the Yatala Labor Prison, where he will serve the final seven months of his sentence in a high-security wing .

Nevertheless, lawyer David McLeod said Hicks was thrilled to be home after more than five years at Guantanamo.

"He is happy to be back on Australian soil," McLeod said outside Yatala prison. "He visibly was elated when we touched down."

Prison officials have said Hicks will be kept in a 6-foot-wide, single-bed cell similar in size to the one he left in Cuba. He will be barred from having personal items in his cell, and his visits with family will be strictly limited .

His telephone calls will be monitored and he will be allowed little or no contact with other inmates, authorities have said.

Attorney General Philip Ruddock declined to comment on security arrangements, saying only "public safety is the primary concern."

A high school dropout and Muslim convert, Hicks was captured in December 2001 in Afghanistan by the US-backed Northern Alliance, and became one of the first terrorist suspects to be transferred to the US naval base .

Hicks was accused of attending Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and conducting surveillance on the British and US American embassies as part of his training.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES