A fortnight ago, the Australian government announced its intention to seize funds that David Hicks has received from the sale of his memoir about his time imprisoned in Guantanamo. The court case is today.

Many Australians are stunned by the decision. To those people, the Hicks case represents a foul miscarriage of justice during the Howard years: an Australian citizen detained in 2001 and abandoned in a legally dubious prison run by the US military, a prison notorious for detention without charge or trial, gross human rights violations and allegations of torture.

When David Hicks was finally charged, it was under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 – an Act created at least five years after his capture. That is to say, fighting the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in 2001 wasn’t a crime. Hicks finally signed a plea bargain in 2007 out of ‘desperation’ to escape Guantanamo.

After six years of campaigning, it was a case where it seemed decency finally prevailed. Hicks was returned to Australia where, yes, he had to serve a short prison term, but was then freed, presumably to move on with his life.

Hence the outrage at this continued persecution. The allegations that Hicks is living off the ‘proceeds of crime’ are simply extraordinary. One could ask: why does the Act apply in the case of the questionable conviction of David Hicks, but not the case of Chopper Read, a self-confessed murderer who continues to make a living from his crimes?

This prosecution against David Hicks should not stand. Firstly, he’s entitled to some justice. We need to know more, not less about what happened at Guantanamo Bay.

Secondly, who can say where this kind of political censorship ends? Anyone involved in publishing, broadcasting or any other kind of media knows what a chilling impact this will have on freedom of speech.

For that reason, I wrote and circulated a petition that has been signed by more than 200 prominent writers, lawyers and politicians, including Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Julian Assange, Alexis Wright, Christos Tsiolkas, Adam Bandt, Julian Burnside, Mary Kostakidis and Stuart Rees.

The petition text is below. We are seeking endorsements both from organisations and from individuals. If you want to add your name to this growing campaign, leave your signature in the comments.

On 20 July 2011, the Australian government served David Hicks with a notice of their intent to restrain any funds obtained from the sale of his book, Guantanamo: My Journey, under the Commonwealth Proceeds of Crime Act.

After Hicks was captured in Afghanistan and sold to the US by the Northern Alliance, he spent six years in Guantanamo Bay without trial or charges. He alleges that, during his detention, he was tortured. He spent much of his captivity in 24-hour solitary detention.

Hicks was eventually brought before a military commission, in a procedure condemned by lawyers and human rights groups everywhere. With no other way to get home, he accepted a deal, under which, in return for pleading guilty, he served a short sentence in Australia.

The arrangement was widely acknowledged as a political resolution to a case that was causing increasing embarrassment to both the US and Australian governments. Obviously, Hicks would never have been released had the Americans thought he represented the slightest threat.

Many Australians regard the treatment of David Hicks as an international outrage. What took place – what continues to take place – in Guantanamo Bay deserves more publicity, not less. If the government thinks it has done nothing wrong, it has nothing to fear from a full discussion of the Hicks case.

The move against Hicks’ memoirs should concern everyone. But it is of particular relevance to writers and publishers, precisely because of the direct interference into publications with which the government politically disagrees. How can Australian publishers feel safe publishing material that is controversial knowing that the Australian government is willing to use laws to financially penalise perceived opponents? Fundamentally, this is an issue of political censorship.

As lawyer Elizabeth O’Shea put it, ‘Anyone who believes in the right to a fair trial and freedom from torture should defend Hicks.’ The government’s application is to be heard 3 August in NSW. We’re asking those in the publishing industry to sign this petition (leave your name below or send us an email) because this action has alarming political and financial implications for writers and publishers everywhere.

See the Justice Campaign for more information.


Jacinda Woodhead – writer and editor
Dr Jeff Sparrow – writer and editor
Elizabeth O’Shea – lawyer
Dr Rjurik Davidson – writer and editor
Alex Skutenko – publisher
Professor Noam Chomsky – writer and academic
John Pilger – journalist and filmmaker
Julian Assange – publisher, internet activist
Rodney Hall – author
James Bradley – novelist and critic
Julian Burnside AO QC
Spencer Zifcak – president, Liberty Vicoria
Sophie Cunningham – writer and editor
Dr Peter Minter – writer and editor
Jane Gleeson-White – writer and editor
Alison Croggon – poet, critic and novelist
Professor Wendy Bacon – the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, UTS
The Hon Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC
Greens MP Adam Bandt – Federal Member for Melbourne
Mary Kostakidis – broadcaster and journalist
Alexis Wright – author
Emmett Stinson – lecturer in publishing and communications
Jo Case – writer and editor
Zoe Dattner – publisher
Louise Swinn – publisher
Professor Chris Nash – Monash University
John Marnell – editor
Adam Ford – writer and editor
Antony Loewenstein – journalist
John Martinkus – academic and journalist, University of Tasmania
Christos Tsiolkas – writer
Mark Davis – writer and academic
Emily Maguire – writer
Kate Eltham – writer, publisher and arts manager
Sally Heath – editor and publisher
Clare Strahan – writer and editor
Joshua Mostafa – writer and citizen
Tim Coronel – publisher, editor and journalist
Greg Black
Roselina Press – writer and editor
Stephanie Convery – writer
Karen Pickering – writer and editor
Stephen Wright – writer, NGO manager, trauma counsellor
Benjamin Solah – blogger, writer and activist
Boris Kelly – writer and lecturer
Trish Bolton – writer
Michele Freeman – writer and producer
Kathleen McLeod – poet
Laura Haglund – writer
Michael Brull – writer and activist
Foong Ling Kong – publisher and editor
Judy Horacek – cartoonist, illustrator and writer
Ann Cunningham – publisher and lawyer
Nicholas Perkins – blogger, computer programmer and citizen
Esther Anatolitis – writer, arts advocate and citizen
Julietta Jameson – writer
Shane Jesse Christmass – writer
Jonathan Shaw – blogger, citizen and former editor
Mark William Jackson – writer
Neil Whitfield – retired teacher
Jackson Taylor – citizen
Michelle Bennett – broadcaster
Simon Butler – writer and co-editor, Green Left Weekly
Stuart Munckton – writer and co-editor, Green Left Weekly
Associate Professor Jake Lynch – director, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney
Professor Emeritus Stuart Rees AM – director, Sydney Peace Foundation
Dr Tara Mokhtari – poet and lecturer in creative writing
Pam Brown – poet and editor
Carol Christie – citizen
Elena Jeffreys – writer and sex worker
Nicholas Brody
Stuart Annels
Lucy Salt
Daniel Jones – computer programmer
Maxine Clarke – poet
Koraly Dimitriadis – writer
Alison Smith – writer
Vanessa Murray – writer
Peter J Casey – songwriter
Samantha Jarrett – theatre practitioner
Dr Jeffrey Kaye – psychologist and writer (US)
Susan Bennett – writer
Andrew Byrne
Heidi Claus – activist, unionist
Alexandra Adsett – publishing consultant
Tony Iltis – writer and editor
Josh Lees – activist
Greens Councillor Irene Doutney – City of Sydney
Donna Mulhearn – writer, activist, speaker
Kathy Hope – legal sector community educator, former editor
Mark Goudkamp – spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, teacher of English to speakers of other languages
Peter Kemp – solicitor of the Supreme Court NSW, editor at Wikileaks Central
Kirsten Tranter – author
Lyn Tranter – literary agent
Jennifer Mills – author
Benjamin Law – writer
Francesca Rendle-Short – writer and RMIT academic
Tim Wright – writer
Peter Francis – writer and student
Dr Michael Grewcock – author and academic, Faculty of Law, UNSW
John Morris – president, Canterbury-Bankstown Teachers Assn NSW
Tom Orsag – journalist and builders’ labourer
Leon Brooks – computer programmer, massage therapist, author
Pip Hinman – Stop the War Coalition
Sophie Splatt – editor
Lisa Greenaway – writer, broadcaster and editor
Mustafa Qadri – journalist
Alec Patric
Diane Simonelli – writer, Meanland blogger
Dr Robert Bollard – writer and historian
Jeanette Hunter
David Prater – poet and editor, Cordite Poetry Review
Griffin Boyce – researcher
Jacinta Sinclair – home educator
Margarita Windisch – teacher, VU, and sexual assault counsellor
Kristoffer Greaves – lawyer and educator
Dr Peter Slezak – senior lecturer, UNSW
Judith Rodriguez – writer and teacher
Hugo Race – musician
Ruth Cosgrove – editor
Karyn Noble – editor
Rosemary Webb – historian, politics lecturer and justice activist
Maree Sheldon
Beccy Smith
Jamie Summers
Julian Block
Andy Battle
Marlene Obeid – community worker, Canterbury-Bankstown Peace Group
Jon Krampner – author
PM Newton – writer
Matty Soccio – writer and editor
Lena Reilly
Melissa Brooks – community worker
Simon Moyle – Baptist Minister
Robert Hollingworth – artist and writer
SJ Finn – writer
Dr John Tully – writer and academic
Sharon Callaghan
Lynne Bon de Veire – artist
Helen Osborn
Susan Hawthorne – writer and publisher
Renate Klein
Ann Harriage
Wendy Poussard
Dr Jennifer Strauss AM – poet and academic
Dana Miltins – actor and writer
Kieran Finnane – journalist
Rod Jones – writer
Michael Nolan – editor
Andrew Bath
Judith Deland – photographer and activist
Chris Hocking Snr
Lyndon Gordon – student
Jennifer Loewenstein – teacher, writer and activist
Misha Van Loder
Erwin Dassen
Marc Rudgley
Kate Holden – writer
Paddy O’Reilly – writer
Joy Claridge – writer and editor
Beverley Farmer – writer
N.A.J. Taylor – PhD candidate, Political Science and Intl Studies, UQ
Kylie Ladd – writer and psychologist
Susan Hall
Mary Lockley
Professor Emeritus John Milfull – European Studies, UNSW
Cindi Burkey
Stephen Stefanac – meteorologist and activist
Stephen Perrett
Nicole Prince
Bea Bleile – mathematician
Dr Rhona Hammond – writer on Caribbean literature and Overland blogger
Emma Murphy – activist and community educator, Darwin & North-East Arnhem Land
David Lowe
Judith Armstrong – writer and reviewer
Jutta Goetze
Kerry Bergin
Linda Batson
Julia Canella
Steve Brook
Maria Tolosa – scientist
Klaas Kalma – sport psychologist, writer, artist
Sylvia Phillips
Kym Connell – lawyer
Guy Rundle – writer
Davidh Digman – writer, blogger, educator, citizen
Miranda Bain
Anthea Wynn – writer
Dr Tad Tietze – writer and psychiatrist
Paul X. Stoney – photographer, prosthetist/orthotist
Nick Tidey – concerned citizen
Ella Hall- blogger, activist, social media architect
Colin Wilson
Alyson Gearing
Paul Sinclair
Ben Hibbs
Joel Arnold
Dr Judith Crispin – writer and academic
Andrew G T Bailey – photographer, writer, poet
John Kinsella – poet

Jacinda Woodhead

Jacinda Woodhead is a former editor of Overland and current law student.

More by Jacinda Woodhead ›

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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  1. John Howard should be stripped of all benefits during and after his term as PM as he invaded a country. I believe that was a criminal act against humanity as well as against the wish of the majority of Australians. It resulted in the death of many innocent civilians. When will he be held accountable for his crime. Disgraceful!

  2. Please add me to the petition list above.
    I endorse all said.

    Paul X. Stoney.
    Photographer, prosthetist/orthotist.

  3. i am happy to sign this if i can add an additional note re my being against all forms of violence (as a pacifist). that is, i fully support the issues behind this petition, but i do not want to condone hicks’s soldier of fortune/soldier/ military/ militaristic activities (whatever their motives), which i see as wrong. i certainly see the brutality of the state and its minions as outrageous, and i entirely believe in freedom of speech (in the real sense of it) and deplore any interference by govt or anyone else in another’s texts – i am, after all, pacifist-anarchist in everything.


  5. No one deserves the treatment David got. He only showed bad judgement (like supporting NATO & KLA)and committed no crime.

  6. What are the implications for Australian writers and editors? I don’t understand how Chopper can get away with it and Hicks is punished? Will someone talk to me please? Thank you.

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