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'Aussie Taliban' freed

Authorities yesterday lifted the last remaining restrictions on an Australian man who spent more than five years as an inmate at Guantanamo Bay and admitted to supporting terrorism.

David Hicks, a 33-year-old ex-kangaroo skinner and Outback cowboy, was held in US custody at the military detention center in Cuba before striking a plea deal that returned him home to Australia to serve a nine-month sentence.

Hicks was released a year ago after completing the sentence for providing support for terrorism, but was placed under a strict court order that required him to report to police three days a week, observe a curfew and banned him from using any telephone or Internet account not approved by police.

The order expired at midnight on Saturday. Australian Federal Police, which had sought the original order citing national security reasons, said last month it had decided not to ask a court to renew the restrictions.

Hicks has kept a low profile since being released from prison. He is living in his home city of Adelaide, and has said through lawyers and recorded statements that he is struggling to return to a normal life after suffering trauma at Guantanamo Bay.

Hicks' father, Terry Hicks, said the conditions imposed on his son by the court order had made his son's life difficult.

"He's been going to rehab, making good progress with the mental and physical things, then having to report to the police station so the rehab's been going out the window and he regresses in his treatment," Terry Hicks said. "Once it's all over, he's going to fully focus on his rehabilitation."

Hicks was captured by the US-backed Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in late 2001 and handed to US troops invading the country to unseat the Taliban regime following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Hicks spent 5 1/2 years in captivity without trial at Guantanamo Bay before pleading guilty at a US military tribunal to providing material support for terrorism in exchange for serving a sentence in Australia.

Throughout his ordeal, Hicks' family and lawyers insisted he was an immature young man who was caught up in events beyond his control after the Sept. 11 attacks. They said Hicks converted to Islam and sought adventure as a fighter in Kosovo and Kashmir after the Australian army rejected him because of a lack of education.