Australia

Ex-Guantanamo inmate David Hicks heckles Australia minister

David Hicks. Photo: 2013 Image copyright AFP
Image caption David Hicks has been convicted in the US of providing material support for terrorism

Ex-Guantanamo inmate David Hicks has heckled an Australian minister, accusing the government of knowing about his alleged torture by the US.

Hicks, who spent five-and-a-half years in the US prison, called Attorney General George Brandis a "coward" when he refused to answer questions.

His outburst came as Mr Brandis was speaking at a gathering in Sydney.

A scathing US Senate report earlier said the CIA carried out "brutal" interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects.

The report also concluded the agency misled politicians and the public about the 2001-2007 programme for terror suspects.

The CIA has defended its actions in the years after the 9/11 attacks on the US, saying they saved lives.

'Beaten and drugged'

Hicks shouted at Mr Brandis after the attorney general finished speaking at a human rights awards gathering in Sydney on Wednesday.

"Hey, my name is David Hicks!" he said. "I was tortured for five-and-a-half years in Guantanamo Bay in the full knowledge of your party. What do you have to say?"

Mr Brandis, who was a member of PM John Howard's government when Hicks was at the US military prison in Cuba, walked off stage without answering.

"He's run away," Hicks said, describing the minister as a "coward".

Mr Brandis later described Hicks as a "terrorist".

"David Hicks, both in his book and also in his plea bargain document, confesses to acts which under Australian law... we define as terrorism offences", he said at a Senate committee hearing, according to Australia's ABC broadcaster.

He said he never felt his personal safety was threatened, although one senator raised concerns over security arrangements at the gathering.

Hicks - who is widely known as "the Australian Taliban" in Australia's media - was seized in Afghanistan in 2001 on suspicion of fighting alongside Taliban militants and sent to Guantanamo Bay the following year.

In 2007, he was transferred to a jail in Australia after being convicted of providing material support for terrorism.

Hicks later retracted his confession, claiming it was obtained under duress.

He alleged that he had been beaten and drugged in the US prison.

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