THE embrace of David Hicks by Australia’s literati has incensed fellow former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib, who says the self-confessed terrorism supporter lived a privileged and protected life during his five years in the military prison.
Mr Habib, annoyed at both the warmth bestowed on Hicks at last month’s Sydney Writers’ Festival and the attention he is receiving from an ABC film crew working for Australian Story, yesterday portrayed Hicks as a jail-house snitch.
“I can give you more than 500 people in Guantanamo Bay (who) witnessed David Hicks never had any of what you call mistreatment,” Mr Habib said. “He used to tell on people in Guantanamo Bay, his own friends.”
Hicks declined to respond to questions submitted through his publisher yesterday, but admitted in his book published last year that he agreed to co-operate with US interrogators in return for protection from physical harm. He mentions in Guantanamo: My Journey being offered a Filipino prostitute as payment for gathering information on other detainees, but says he rejected the deal.
“If I agreed to do this, I would be allowed 15 minutes with a lady from The Philippines,” he wrote. “I instantly refused and requested to be sent back to my cage.”
Mr Habib insists the encounter did take place, saying Hicks told him and other detainees about it afterwards.
“They gave him a free room with a prostitute,” Mr Habib said. “He admitted that to everybody — ask him about the Filipino woman. He comes one day and say ‘Do you think God (will) forgive me if I done sexual with the woman. People tell him, ‘Go back (to your cell), don’t worry, don’t do it again’.”
In his book, Hicks details torture experienced by other detainees. He says he was forcibly given mysterious injections and had to sleep amid bright lights, but also notes special privileges such as books and extra food.
Guards allowed him to visit a room nicknamed the Love Shack, where he watched DVDs on a flat-screen TV and enjoyed cigarettes and food.
Hicks was captured as an enemy combatant in Afghanistan in December 2001. He spent five years in Guantanamo before pleading guilty to providing material support to terrorism and being sent to an Adelaide prison.
He was released in December 2007 and now lives in Sydney, where he received a standing ovation on May 22 at the writers festival.
Mr Habib spent three years in Guantanamo Bay after being arrested in Pakistan following the September 11 attacks. He was released in 2005 without charge.
Mr Habib said he saw evidence of other preferential treatment one day when guards were taking him past Hicks’ cell.
“He was in his cell with a hamburger and a magazine,” Mr Habib said. “I was very sick, I hadn’t been allowed to sleep.
“I said, ‘I’m going to die — if I die, if anything happens, please tell my family I was killed by Australian officials and (the) Americans’.”
In his book, Hicks said guards would sometimes give him leftover food while his lawyers brought him McDonald’s burgers and steak.