Habib : "We Have No Terrorists In Australia"
Australian Mamdouh Habib spent three years in Guantanamo Bay, after being renditioned through Egypt from Pakistan, a time during which he claims he was repeatedly tortured, and abused, before he was released without charge in early 2005.
Now he's making a controversial run for the NSW State Parliament.
Habib has certainly got his independent campaign off to a headline-worthy start, claiming that Australia's new, and extremely broad, anti-terror laws are not necessary because, "We have no terrorists in Australian, I believe."
"The terror laws are if you have terrorists....This country is a peaceful country," Habib said of his adopted homeland. "I believe Australia is the best country in the world."
Habib is running for the seat of Auburn, home to thousands of Muslims, and long regarded as a "safe seat" for the State Labor government.
He said he is not concerned that his chances of winning a seat in parliament are not great, only that the voice of the local people is heard, and that human rights for Australian citizens are protected.
Habib's announcement that he was stepping into politics was greeted with a near hysterical reaction by the NSW's premier, Morris Iemma. He called Habib an "extremist" and said his campaign was "lunacy".
Habib is unfazed.
"I don't care about Morris Iemma or (prime minister) John Howard, I worry about myself," he was quoted here as saying :
"I have no answer to anyone saying Mr Habib is an extremist. We're here to focus on what we must try to do in our area. Whatever anyone says, I have no problem."He said he would be campaigning for free speech and human rights,
"....the right of freedom of expression and in opposition to the anti-terrorist laws, state and federal".Habib's campaign is supported by the Auburn Human Rights Group.Campaign manager for the Auburn Human Rights Group, Raul Bassi, said Habib's campaign had won the group's support because he believed the Liberal and Labor parties had nothing new to offer the citzens of Auburn :
"The right to fight racism, the end of scapegoating of Aborigines, Muslims and migrants...The right to oppose Australia's involvement in Iraq."
"All they have to offer is more privatisation, less money for people's needs and lots of empty promises with hidden agendas," Mr Bassi said.
"The aim of the campaign is to reclaim our diminishing human rights, negated every day by the state and federal governments, and to organise people who are prepared to fight for them."