Sunday, March 04, 2007

Fair trial anyone...?

David Kurtz tells us that Lt. Wataba isn't the only American military person who is paying a personal price for a principled stand.

I must admit that the case of David Hicks, the Australian held at Guantanamo, has been off my radar lately, and it shouldn't be. It's a national embarrassment. Here's the latest.

Hicks this week became the first person charged under the new military tribunals set up by Congress just before the mid-term elections in response to the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision striking down the old tribunal system.

After being held for five years without a trial and being originally charged with conspiracy to commit murder and engage in acts of terrorism, attempted murder and aiding the enemy, Hick was charged with a single count of providing material support for terrorism, which wasn't outlawed until 2006.

Australians are outraged. Understandably so.

Now comes word that Hicks' trial may be delayed because his American military lawyer, Maj. Michael Mori, is being threatened with prosecution under the UCMJ by the chief American prosecutor, Col. Morris Davis:

Colonel Davis has accused Major Mori of breaching Article 88 of the US military code, which relates to using contemptuous language towards the president, vice-president, and secretary of defence. Penalties for breaching the code include jail and the loss of employment and entitlements.

Major Mori denied he had done anything improper but said the accusations left him with an inherent conflict of interest.

"It can't help but raise an issue of whether any further representation of David and his wellbeing could be tainted by a concern for my own legal wellbeing," Major Mori told the Herald. "David Hicks needs counsel who is not tainted by these allegations."

Major Mori, who has been to Australia seven times, will seek legal advice. The issue will also have to be raised with Hicks when his legal team next sees him.

Morris has criticized Mori's frequent trips to Australia; and, as The Times reported yesterday, American embassy officials tried and failed to have the Pentagon bar Mori from coming to Australia.

Why would anyone doubt that Hicks will get a fair trial?

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