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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 August 2006, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Guantanamo father earns praise
David Hicks' father Terry
Terry Hicks has campaigned for his son's release
The father of an Australian man being held in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba has been nominated for a Father of the Year award.

Terry Hicks has led a campaign for his son David's release following his capture by US forces in Afghanistan nearly five years ago.

Previous winners of the Australian title include Prime Minister John Howard and cricket star Steve Waugh.

The nomination has not received unanimous support as some say Mr Hicks should not be eligible because of his son's alleged crimes.

David Hicks, dubbed the Australian Taleban, is still awaiting trial, having been charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes, attempted murder and helping the enemy during the 2001 US-led war in Afghanistan.

Terry Hicks was nominated earlier this month by John Stanhope, chief minister of the Australian Capital Territories.

"Terry has stuck by his son and has continued to advocate for justice," Mr Stanhope told the World Service's Outlook programme.

"He's done it with enormous graciousness and, I have to say, an exemplary lack of rancour.

I've had some terrible times and terrible nights
Terry Hicks

"He's shown unqualified love. Terry Hicks [is] a father who has lived a nightmare [no] parents could imagine."

He rejected accusations from political opponents of politicising the award.

"I nominated Terry Hicks as Australian Father of the Year not David Hicks as Australian son of the year.

"One shouldn't qualify one's views around one person's qualities as a parent or as a father on the basis of their children."

Solitary confinement

Terry Hicks said he was encouraged by the nomination but said he was doing what he hoped any parent would do if their child was in a similar predicament.

During his son's four-and-a-half-years' detention at the US military base, Mr Hicks has spoken to David about four times.

"We had a phone call with David about six weeks ago," he said. "It wasn't a very good one. He's not coping very well at all.

"He is still in solitary confinement. They have taken everything off him.

David Hicks
David Hicks is awaiting trial in Guantanamo Bay

"They have taken his books, his bedding and just given him a half-inch thin mattress to sleep on.

"They also turn the air conditioning up as cold as they can get it. So he's not having a good time."

Mr Hicks said most of the stories about his son's activities in Afghanistan had been exaggerated by the US and Australian governments.

"Regardless or whether David is innocent or guilty, the only way to find out is to put him through a proper justice system, not this kangaroo court or commissions as they call them," he said.

He said he has found it hard coping with his son's imprisonment, especially with the lack of information.

"I've had some terrible times and terrible nights," he said. "During the days it's probably not as bad because I have got to go to work, I have other interests.

"It's just the quiet times at night... the mind starts wandering and thinking how he's going and we're hoping he's coping."


SEE ALSO
Dad phones 'Australian Taleban'
16 Dec 03 |  Americas
'Taleban' father in caged protest
08 Jun 03 |  Asia-Pacific
The 'Australian Taleban'
10 Jun 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Q&A: Guantanamo hearings
06 Aug 04 |  Americas

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