October 31, 2005

Australia to investigate Guantanamo abuse claims

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia will investigate claims of
sexual abuse against Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks after
his father and a former detainee said he was taken from a U.S.
warship and abused in two 10-hour beatings before reaching

"Our embassy in Washington will endeavor to follow up the
credibility of these claims," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer
told reporters on Tuesday.

"We've had claims that he was tortured. We've had two
American teams investigate those claims and they have come back
with nil returns," said Downer, urging those making the
allegations to provide evidence.

Downer said Australian consular officials had met Hicks
several times and he had never raised the issue with them.

David Hicks has spent three and half years in U.S. military
custody at Guantanamo Bay after being captured alongside
Taliban forces in Afghanistan in late 2001.

Hick's father, Terry, told Australian Broadcasting Corp
(ABC) television that his son was blindfolded and beaten by
Americans after being taken off a U.S. warship in the Arabian

"He had two 10-hour beatings from the Americans," Hicks
told the Four Corners current affairs program on Monday night.

"I said to David: 'Sure they were Americans?' cause he said
he had a bag over his head. He said, 'Oh look ... I know their
accents, they were definitely American'," he said.

A former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Briton Martin Mubanga,
told the program Hicks had told him he was helicoptered off the
USS Peleliu aircraft carrier, blindfolded, beaten, spat upon,
sexually abused and assaulted.

"(His attackers yelled) things like 'you Aussie kangaroo'
and things like that, yeah, while they were beating and
spitting on him and things like that, so he was called a
traitor," he said.

Hicks' U.S. military lawyer, Michael Mori, told ABC
television he had witness accounts to back the latest claims.

Hicks, accused of fighting for the militant al Qaeda
network, has pleaded not guilty to charges of aiding the enemy
and conspiring to commit war crimes. His U.S. military
commission trial is set to start on November 18.