11 January 2007

Is he any closer to being charged?

Recent developments on the David Hicks front.

Following yesterday's reply from Lex Lasry QC to (the Australian) Attorney General Ruddock's "Why he can't return" article The Age today has the case against him according to the chief prosecutor of the US Office of Military Commissions, Colonel Davis. DH's US lawyer
Major Mori replies to this in a piece added to the paper's website this afternoon.

The gloves are off for the military lawyers. Col Davis has (1) asserted that DH "
was a fully fledged al-Qaeda operative who took orders from Osama bin Laden, conducted surveillance on embassies and was armed to battle against coalition forces in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks", and (2) attacked Major Mori "I'm concerned about the health of Australians because he [Mori] comes down there and he blows smoke, which can't be good for your health."

The Major has responded:
"It is disappointing to hear Colonel Davis make derogatory comments attacking my integrity...When a prosecutor's case is weak, he or she often resorts to attacking the defence lawyer ...I am sure it was disappointing and shocking to Australian ministers to hear Colonel Davis say that he hoped David's five years at Guantanamo would not be taken into account if he is sentenced. "

I'd thought that this was one of the issues (another is no death penalty, but maybe even that needs to be checked) on which even the Australian government was firm.

Two ALP spokespeople, Joel Fitzgibbon (Defence) and Kelvin Thompson (Foreign Affairs) have
also increased the pressure to resolve the matter rapidly.

For his part Prime Minister Howard has stated today: "I discussed this matter with the President at some length yesterday when he spoke to me [about the revised US policy towards Iraq], and he's been left in no doubt as to the strength of feeling of the Australian Government" [that DH should be charged by the US as soon as possible].

If the Australian government is to be believed, then they and the US are increasingly at odds. In an opinion piece in today's Australian Leigh Sales, the ABC's national security correspondent, makes just this point:

Do not imagine the Government wants Hicks's repatriation. It does not. It wants him to stand trial at Guantanamo. But it is not prepared to accept more promises without results. When the FBI arrested Nazi secret agents in the US during World War II, their trials via military commission and subsequent executions took less than a month. From capture to execution, the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein spent two years and 17 days in custody. Hicks has now spent five years, one month and two days in prison, with no end in sight. The Pentagon must now act quickly and efficiently to fix that. It is said that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. On that basis, the Australian Government must be terrified.

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