David Hicks is an Australian citizen who was captured by the Afghan Northern Alliance in Afghanistan where he was found training with al-Quaeda. He was turned in to U.S. forces and sent to the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was held there until 2006 when he was convicted under the Military Commissions Act. The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled in Hamdan v Rumsfeld that these commissions to be illegal under U.S. law, effectively invalidating his conviction. Mr. Hicks also claimed that he was tortured and mistreated by both U.S. and Afghan forces. Following these allegations, and the voiding of the initial charges against him, Mr. Hicks had new charges brought against him, including providing material support to terrorists. In exchange for a severely reduced sentence, Mr. Hicks and his defense team cut a deal whereby he pleaded guilty to a single count of providing material support to terrorists. Mr. Hicks was returned to his native Australia and served nine months in prison there.
Now, Mr. Hicks has written a book detailing his experience and ordeal in Guantanamo. In the book, Mr. Hicks claims he was falsely arrested and reasserts his allegations of torture and abuse and estimates of his royalty income so far are about $107,000. The Australian government however, has sued to freeze the assets generated from the sale of Mr. Hicks’ memoir and the Court has agreed and frozen the trust account holding the royalty monies. Australia has a law, as do many other countries around the world, the United States included, that prohibits criminals from making money off of their crimes. These laws usually specifically forbid selling rights to the story or producing a film or book about the crime. In this case however, Mr. Hicks claims that his initial conviction, the one that produced the events detailed in the book, was declared invalid and therefore should not bar him from receiving the profits from the telling of these events.
At the moment it is unclear what the outcome will be; the government is still in talks with Mr. Hick’s legal team about how to resolve the situation. But Mr. Hicks’ father is claiming that this move is politically motivated and the Green Party has agreed, calling the move a “[S]how trial designed to deter authors from publishing politically sensitive material.” Whatever the outcome, perhaps it’s worth considering that we should all be entitled to tell our tale in our own words.