“It's very interesting to hear those sorts of arguments in relation to David Hicks,” he told The Australian. “I don't hear them very often in relation to people who have been charged with serious criminal offences in some of our states. I am looking at the cases involving the Middle Eastern boys who raped some girls in Sydney. It was finally resolved about five years later.”
Mr Ruddock said yesterday he was not surprised that the Hicks case continued to attract supporters while the terror suspect remained in Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba.
“We saw it for a long time when we were in the Cold War with the former Soviet Union. There were people who joined a party, it was called the Communist Party,” he said.
“Yes, there will be some people who will say in relation to these matters until there's a trial or the evidence is out there, ‘perhaps this was an innocent lad who just happened to be seeing something of the world’.”
The comparisons makes little sense. The gang rapists weren’t denied natural justice. They were tried in an independent and open court of law, not a kangaroo military tribunal. They could not have been kept in custody without consideration of bail. They could receive regular visits from family members. They knew what they were being charged with and their lawyers were provided with a full brief of prosecution evidence.
David Hicks is receiving no natural justice. For years, he was held without charge. Much of the evidence that might convict him will be secret evidence that even his lawyers won’t have access to. He hardly gets to see his family. Guantanamo military tribunals aren’t open courts. I doubt the High Court of Australia pronounce NSW Court of Appeal procedures illegal or unconstitutional as the US Supreme Court has done with Guantanamo tribunals.
I’d love to see Mr Ruddock make such arguments to a gathering of lawyers. Before entering Parliament, Ruddock was a respected legal practitioner. Surely he of all people should know better than make such silly suggestions. Which begs the question: why are government ministers resorting to such non-arguments?
My theory is this. When facts and logic are against you, there’s nothing like a good dose of innuendo. The government’s treatment of David Hicks is an increasingly emotive issue in the electorate. Mixing David Hicks with all the emotion of gang-rapes and Middle Eastern nasties is an attempt to divert the electorate’s attention from the facts.
Ruddock is subtly reminding punters that David Hicks (or “Dawud Hicks” as Piers Akerman likes to call him, emphasising Hicks’ alleged adoption of an Arabic name) should be compared to gang rapists of the same religious background.
Or maybe he’s providing hints to those nasty Lebanese branch-stackers threatening his preselection.
I hate the Taliban. David Hicks was a dimwit for fighting with them. I also hate gang-rapists. But whether you're an enemy combatant or a sexual predator, you deserve a fair trial. Any lawyer denying this doesn’t deserve a practising certificate.
© Irfan Yusuf 2006
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