Australian police probe Gitmo detainee book deal

AP News
Posted: Oct 17, 2010 3:01 AM
Australian police probe Gitmo detainee book deal

Australian police said Sunday that they are considering whether the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to plead guilty to a terrorism offense should be sued for any profits he makes from his autobiography.

David Hicks, a 35-year-old ex-kangaroo skinner and Outback cowboy, was held in U.S. custody at the military detention center in Cuba for more than five years before striking a plea deal in 2007 that returned him home to Australia to serve a nine-month prison sentence.

Under Australian law, criminals can be sued for money that a federal court determines is proceeds from their crimes, including indirect profits from book and movie deals.

It is unclear whether the law applies to Hicks, since be pleaded guilty before a U.S. military commission, part of a justice system that has been widely criticized by lawyers and governments as unfair.

In his book "Guantanamo: My Journey," which was released in Australia on Saturday, Hicks wrote that he only admitted to a charge of providing material support to al-Qaida to escape Cuba. He said his only options were to plead guilty to a crime he did not commit or to kill himself.

"To plead guilty was really saying that the system was unfair and I could never win, not that I ever provided support to a terrorist organization," he wrote.

He also wrote that the U.S. authorities offered detainees inducements including illicit drugs and prostitutes to gain their cooperation.

Attorney General Robert McClelland's spokesman, Daniel Gleeson, said the Australian Federal Police would have to investigate and provide federal prosecutors with a brief of evidence before they could decide whether to sue Hicks under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Police said in a statement Sunday that they are "considering whether there are grounds to investigate in relation to this matter."

Judy Jamieson-Green, spokeswoman for Hicks' publisher Random House Australia, declined to say whether the author would profit from his 465-page book, which retails in Australia for 49.95 Australian dollars ($49.48).

"That's not something I'm commenting on. That's a private matter between Random House and David Hicks," Jamieson-Green said.

"All legal ramifications are obviously matters for David and his lawyers," she added.

Hicks, who lives in Sydney, could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday.

He wrote that as part of his plea bargain, he had agreed to give any profits he made from his story to the Australian government.

But the Obama administration's decision to change the military commissions' rules with legislation in 2009 rendered "my conviction and subsequent plea deal, in the view of my U.S. attorneys, null and void," Hicks wrote.

Hicks was captured in Afghanistan by the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in late 2001.

He wrote that he had undergone military training in Afghanistan at a camp that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden visited, but denied it amounted to terrorist training.

The book has so far only been released in Australia and New Zealand. Jamieson-Green declined to say how many copies had been printed.