Hicks pleads guilty to supporting terrorism after two lawyers disqualified

[JURIST] Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks [JURIST news archive] pleaded guilty to a charge of supporting terrorism [JURIST report] at an appearance before a US military commission Monday after the presiding judge unexpectedly disqualified two of his three lawyers. Judge Colonel Ralph Kohlmann barred civilian lawyer Joshua Dratel [firm profile] from the court because Dratel had not signed a form saying he would conform to the regulations governing proceedings. Rebecca Snyder, a military reserve lawyer, was also disqualified because she had not been called to active duty to defend Hicks. Kohlman said the two could remain in the court room as "advisors," but both left when Hicks said he only wanted them as his lawyers. Dratel argued against Kohlman's decision, saying he could not sign the required form because the regulations governing the conduct of lawyers had not yet been created by the Secretary of Defence and he did not want to sign a "blank check" for his ethical obligations. US Major Michael Mori [ACLU profile], Hicks' remaining military lawyer, argued that Kohlmann was biased because he had effectively ruled against Hicks' entire defence team. Kohlman ruled that he was impartial. The tribunal will reconvene Tuesday for a formal verdict on the disqualifications.

Australian opposition politicians quickly condemned the dismissals, saying they were further evidence that the proceedings are biased against Hicks. Australian Greens leader Bob Brown [personal website] compared the process to show trials conducted in the former Soviet Union [press release]. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] that the tribunal was "fundamentally flawed" [press release]. Hicks is the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried [JURIST report] under the new Military Commissions Act [PDF text] that revived the tribunals after the US Supreme Court threw out the previous system created by an order from US President George W. Bush. The Sydney Morning Herald has more. The Australian has additional coverage.

 

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