Video camera could monitor Hicks 24 hours inside cell

By Greg Ansley

ADELAIDE - A video camera may monitor David Hicks' movements inside his cell at Adelaide's Yatala prison for up to 24 hours a day, a prison officers' union says.

Hicks, a self-confessed supporter of terrorism, spent his first night at the prison last night after arriving back in Australia on a government chartered jet from Guantanamo Bay to serve the remainder of a nine-month jail sentence.

The 31-year-old has been given the maximum security prison's highest classification of "high 1A" and placed in G Division, reserved for the state's toughest criminals.

Service Association (PSA) chief industrial officer Peter Christopher said while he could not comment on individual prisoners at Yatala, each cell within G Division could be monitored by video camera.

"It is possible for individual prisoners to be monitored within individual cells," he said.

"A judgment would be made prisoner by prisoner.

"But that decision about whether they (a prisoner) need to be or not need to be is a decision taken by prison management."

Mr Christopher said the 24 prisoners of G Division, the maximum that could be accommodated, had no contact with one another.

Each was locked in his cell for 23 hours a day, including for meals, with prisoners allowed one hour exercise under strict supervision and always watched by more than one guard, he said.

Cereal for breakfast

Hicks was served a breakfast of cereal, toast and coffee, but was forced to eat alone, on his first morning in Adelaide's Yatala Jail.

South Australian Correctional Services acting chief executive Greg Weir said the terrorism supporter had been isolated from other prisoners since his arrival yesterday from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Mr Weir said Hicks already had access to radio broadcasts and that would be extended to newspapers and possibly television, depending on his behaviour and an assessment of security issues.

He said Hicks would have been served the same breakfast as all other prisoners in Yatala high-security G Division.

"Normally breakfast is cereal, some toast and some coffee and that is for all the prisoners in G Division," Mr Weir told ABC radio.

He said prison officials were going through a detailed assessment with Hicks to determine his health, his needs and his psychological condition.

"In the next week or so we'll prepare a detailed management plan into the future for him specifically tailored to his needs," he said.

Mr Weir said that plan could include vocational education and training, literacy and numeracy programs and other measures to give him the best chance of succeeding once he entered the community later this year.

"His welfare is very much at the top of our priorities," he said.

"We've got a responsibility for his safety, his welfare and also the safety of the system and the community, so we balance all those priorities."

Yatala prison

Hicks overalls will be white, rather than orange, and he will still be held in isolation from other maximum security prisoners who include Snowtown "bodies-in-the-barrel" killers Robert Wagner and John Bunting.

The 31-year-old Muslim convert from Adelaide captured as a Taleban fighter in Afghanistan will also remain surrounded by controversy, with renewed calls for his immediate freedom and a royal commission into the Government's handling of his case.

And despite a US ban on speaking to the media imposed as part of the deal under which he was transferred by private jet to Edinburgh RAAF base, Adelaide, Hicks will next year be free to tell his story - as long as he does not profit from it.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock yesterday confirmed the gag was not enforceable in Australia. Hicks' father Terry - who was at an anti-war conference in Sydney when his son touched down - said he believed media pressure would force Hicks to speak at a press conference when he was able to.

Hicks was captured by Afghani Northern Alliance forces in December 2001 and handed to US authorities.

He was among the first to be imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in January 2002 but, unlike another Australian man, Mamdouh Habib, and British and other foreign detainees, the US refused to release him and held him without charge.

The Australian Government only began to exert pressure as anger mounted at the indefinite detention of one of its citizens outside the normal processes of justice and in the face of growing calls for his return to face trial at home.

Hicks was not permitted to consult a lawyer for almost two years and was not charged until mid-2004 - after which the US Supreme Court ruled that the military commissions convened to try Guantanamo detainees were unconstitutional.

He was finally tried and convicted on his own admission of training with al Qaeda by a new commission convened in March after the passage of new legislation by Congress.

On the sole charge of providing material support to terrorism, Hicks was sentenced to five years' jail, which was cut to nine months. The remainder of that term will be served in South Australia's forbidding, 19th century sandstone Yatala maximum security prison. He will be due for release on New Year's Eve.

Hicks flew home in a Gulfstream V long-range corporate jet, chartered by the Government at a cost of A$500,000 ($564,350) because the US would not allow him to cross American airspace nor stop on US territory, blocking him from commercial flights.

A joint statement by Ruddock and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said another A$20,000 was spent flying Australian officials to Guantanamo Bay.

Hicks' Australian lawyer, David McLeod, two South Australian prison officials, two Federal Police agents and a doctor accompanied Hicks on the flight from Cuba.

The Gulfstream landed at 9.50am local time and taxied to a hangar. Hicks, wearing orange overalls, was taken inside for about 30 minutes for what Ruddock and Downer said were "normal" customs and immigration entry processes.

Afterwards 10 police cars, six motorcycles and the white van with blacked-out windows carrying Hicks dodged the waiting media by leaving through a back gate and sped in convoy to Yatala.

Hicks would have been stripped, given new white maximum-security overalls and taken to his 4m by 2m cell. The cell, with its own bathroom and toilet, is the same size as his accommodation at Guantanamo Bay and also without personal effects and other privileges, which have to be earned under the prisons reward system.

But McLeod said Hicks had been "visibly elated" when he arrived, and Terry Hicks told the ABC his son would be "over the moon".

"Yeah, David's spirits would be pretty high knowing he's back home and he's not far away from his home, so it's good."

The public interest organisation Getup and the Australian Lawyers Alliance demanded a royal commission into the Government's handling of the affair, and said significant questions remained over the constitution of the military commission, allegations of torture, and the gag order imposed on Hicks.


Guantanamo Bay
Five years inside

* Initially held in a makeshift wire cage in Camp X-Ray.

* His most recent cell in Camp 6 was a sparse 7.4 sq m room.

* It had no window to the outside world.

* It had a concrete slab for a bed, lined with a thin foam mat.

Yatala Labour Prison
Seven months to go

* Adelaide's maximum security jail.

* Hicks is in Division G, reserved for the state's toughest criminals.

* He will be kept in solitary confinement.

* He is in a 2m by 4m cell for 23 hours a day.

- with REUTERS

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