Sydney confronts 'barbarism' of Guantanamo

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The Independent Online

The Australian government would prefer the world to forget about David Hicks, an Adelaide man detained at Guantanamo Bay. That is unlikely to happen, with the opening of a theatrical work highlighting his plight at the Sydney Opera House.

Honour Bound, by a leading Australian director, Nigel Jamieson, was created in conjunction with Mr Hicks' father, Terry, and stepmother, Bev. Terry Hicks has won admiration for the quiet, steadfast way in which he has campaigned for justice for his son.

David Hicks, a 30-year-old Muslim convert and former kangaroo skinner, was captured while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001. A US military tribunal has charged him with aiding the enemy, attempted murder, and conspiracy to attack civilians. However, he has not broken any Australian law, and many regard him as a foolish man caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The show will prove a severe embarrassment for Australia, which alone among Western governments has made no effort to bring its nationals home from the Cuban enclave. It appears to have washed its hands of Mr Hicks, who has been held without trial for nearly five years, much of that in solitary confinement.

The multimedia show - named after the words above the Guantanamo Bay gates, Honour Bound to Protect Freedom - combines dance, sound, video, and aerial acrobatics.

Six performers wearing orange jumpsuits hurl themselves around inside a metal cage, in an evocation of physical distress and disorientation. Mr Jamieson told the Sydney Morning Herald that he visualised Mr Hicks as a "human figure spinning and turning in a void". The faces of Mr Hicks' parents are projected on to a back wall. The audience hears - or sees, in text flashed across the stage - excerpts from the UN declaration on human rights, Mr Hicks' letters home, Pentagon documents, news footage and the testimony of former detainees. Interviews with Terry and Bev Hicks are also played.

The work is expected to tour internationally, and may be staged in Britain. Mr Jamieson denied that its purpose was to defend Mr Hicks. He told The Australian newspaper: "The principal theme is if you remove safeguards such as the Geneva Conventions, what occurs? What does that mean on a human level, and what kind of barbarism does that unleash?"

Mr Hicks' supporters say that, irrespective of whether he is dangerous or harmless, he deserves a fair trial. In June, 76 of Australia's top lawyers and judges signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, John Howard, urging him to act to secure Mr Hicks' rights under international law.

Mr Howard has continued to defend the tribunal system, even after it was lambasted by Lord Goldsmith, the British Attorney General. "We make our own minds up about these things," he said.

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