Gitmo Detainee Back On Australian Soil

Adelaide, AUSTRALIA: A ploice motorcade containing confessed Australian terrorist David Hicks arrives at Adelaide's toughest jail, the Yatala Labour Prison, after a chartered flight from Guantanamo Bay, 20 May 2007. The Australian government chartered a private jet to fly Hicks to Adelaide, ending his five-and-a-half years in custody at Guantanamo, a US military base in Cuba. He was sentenced to seven years' jail with all but nine months of the sentence suspended. The plea agreement also allows Hicks to serve the sentence in Australia and he is expected to walk free from Yatala on December 30. AFP PHOTO/William WEST (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
Getty Images/AFP/William West
David Hicks, the first Guantanamo Bay inmate to face a U.S. military tribunal, was flown back to his hometown of Adelaide on Sunday to serve out the remainder of his sentence in a maximum security prison cell.

The former Outback cowboy and kangaroo skinner pleaded guilty in March to providing material support to al Qaeda, including attending terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

Under a plea deal, he was sentenced to nine months in prison — a fraction of the life term he faced for his crime — and allowed to return to Australia to serve out his term.

Accompanied by police and prison officials, Hicks was flown from Cuba in a Gulfstream G550 jet chartered by the Australian government and landed early Sunday at the heavily fortified Edinburgh air force base on the outskirts of Adelaide.

Hicks, shackled and wearing an orange jumpsuit, was then taken to the Yatala Labor Prison, where he will serve the final seven months of his sentence in the high security G Division alongside the prison's most dangerous criminals.

"It's quite an old prison, in fact well over a hundred years old," sais CBS News correspondent Roger Maynard. "It houses some very serious criminals — murderers, rapists and bank robbers and the like. In many ways it's arguable that this prison has far worse facilities than Guantanamo Bay."

Nevertheless, lawyer David McLeod said Hicks was thrilled to be home after more than five years at the U.S. military camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"He is happy to be back on Australian soil," McLeod told reporters outside Yatala prison. "He visibly was elated when we touched down."

Prison officials have said Hicks will be kept in a 6-foot-wide single-bed cell similar in size to the one he left in Cuba.

The 31-year-old will be barred from having any personal items in his cell, and his visits with family will be strictly limited, with no physical contact allowed.

His telephone calls will be monitored, and he will be allowed little or no contact with other inmates, authorities have said.

Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock declined to comment on security arrangements, saying only "public safety is the primary concern."

Hicks' lawyer said his client has instructed him to discontinue any current court actions. "All he wants to do now is become a regular prisoner, serve his time, and proposes to make every use that he can of the rehabilitation processes here," McLeod said. "He wants to get on with his education. He wants to complete high school and if possible go on to university."

A high school dropout and Muslim convert, Hicks was captured in December 2001 in Afghanistan by the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance, and became one of the first terrorist suspects to be transferred to the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

He was tried by a military tribunal under a system created by U.S. President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001. The system has come under criticism as a violation of the prisoners' right to challenge their confinement in U.S. courts.

Hicks was accused of attending al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and conducting surveillance on the British and American embassies as part of his training.

He had spent only two hours on the Taliban front line before it collapsed in November 2001 under attack by U.S. Special Forces and the Northern Alliance.

While fleeing, Hicks came across a group of Arab fighters who told him they were heading back to the front to fight to the death. Hicks declined to join them and was captured in December 2001 as he tried to escape into Pakistan, according to the military's charge sheet.

As part of his plea deal, Hicks agreed to a 12-month order prohibiting him from talking to the media and stated he had "never been treated illegally" since he was captured in Afghanistan and taken to Guantanamo.

He is due to be released at the end of December, and the Australian attorney general has said he may be free to speak to the media about his ordeal, despite the U.S. gag order.

Ruddock said he did not believe Australia could enforce the media ban. But under local law, Hicks, a convicted criminal, would not be allowed to sell his story.

"We are of the view that he's free — once he has concluded his penal servitude — to speak as he wishes, but not to profit," Ruddock told Australian Broadcasting Corp. Sunday.