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Alan Goodall’s May 29 article, “A prodigal divides Australia” — about Australian David Hicks, who was detained at Guantanamo Bay for five years without charges and recently returned to Australia to serve a nine-month sentence after plea-bargaining to the very recent charge of “providing material support to terrorism” — is deeply offensive to the Australian public.

Goodall claims that the Howard government had engaged in “five years of diplomatic appeals to Washington” with regard to the Hicks case and that now this “is rebounding against Howard in an election year.” Is Goodall saying the Australian public is turning against the Howard government because the government cared too much? Wrong! If there is any truth to the claim that the Howard government had been making diplomatic appeals for five years, we would like to know exactly in what form these appeals were made. Can Goodall, or someone, tell us?

Goodall next insults those with a religious bent, writing “whether this convert remains a Muslim, let alone a repentant one, has yet to be revealed.” Hicks was never, and will never be, on trial for being a Muslim. Religion is not on trial, terrorism is. Our own Australian leaders have all found religion. Apparently it’s quite popular with voters. To repent of one’s religion, as Goodall suggests, is not a measurement of good citizenship.

Goodall then writes that “the plea bargaining that got Hicks off lightly worries Australians.” Yes, it does, but I will hazard a guess that our reasons for worrying differ from Goodall’s. Australians worry because we believe that the truth should have been revealed years ago through proper due process. We have all lost in this sad episode. Hicks never got his democratic right to a fair trial in a legitimate court of law, and the Australian public never got our democratic right to the truth.

genevieve barr

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