Hicks pleads guilty in Guantanamo

David Hicks, the Australian citizen imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, has pleaded guilty to a charge of supporting a terrorist organisation under revised US military tribunal rules.

Hicks pleads guilty in Guantanamo

David Hicks, the Australian citizen imprisoned at Guantanamo Bayin Cuba,has pleaded guilty to a charge of supporting a terrorist organisation.

The 31-year-old entered the plea before a tribunal at the US military base on Monday.

Hicks, who has been held for five years, pleaded guilty toone of two charges of providing material support for terrorism by fighting foral-Qaeda in Afghanistanin late 2001.

He is the first of almost 400 prisoners held at the base to face prosecutionunder revised USmilitary tribunal rules.

Trials 'rigged'

Hicks' lawyers and human rights monitors observing thehearings say the trials are rigged to ensure convictions andallow evidence to be submitted that has been obtained throughcoercion.

The new tribunal was established by the US congressafter the supreme court found the Pentagon's earlier version to beunconstitutional.

Speaking to reporters before Monday's arraignment hearing,Air Force colonel Morris Davis, the chief prosecutor for the tribunals, saidprosecution planned to prove Hicks had provided "support for the al-Qaedaorganisation".

Hick's lawyer told the judge his client pleaded guiltyto a charge that says he intentionally provided support to a terrororganisation involved in hostilities against the United States.

He denied a second charge that he providedsupported for preparation, or in carrying out, an act of terrorism.

'Lack of safeguards'

Hicks was originally charged with war crimes andconspiracy to commit murder, and critics say the new charges are less specific.

Human rights groups have criticised the tribunalsaying the process lacks legal safeguards, while the crime with which Hicks ischarged did not even exist when he was captured in 2001.

Last year the UScongress, then under a Republican majority, passed a law authorising areconstituted tribunal regime with some adjustments but still operating outsideof regular UScourts or military courts-martial.

The law permits hearsay, evidence obtained through"coercion", to be admitted and forbids detainees from appealingagainst their detentions in US courts.

Plea welcomed

News of Hicks's guilty plea was welcomed by Australia's foreign minister who said heexpected him to return home soon to serve his sentence in an Australian jail,under an agreement reached with Washington.

"My guess is he will be able to come back (to Australia)fairly soon," Alexander Downer told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Earlier Hicks's Australian lawyer, David McLeod, said Hickswas convinced he would not get a fair trial and might plead guilty if it wouldget him home sooner.

McLeod said there had been discussions about a potentialplea agreement under which Hicks would receive a reduced sentence if he pleadedguilty.

Hearing

During Monday's initial arraignment hearing Hicks told thejudge he was satisfied with his Pentagon-appointed attorney but wanted moredefence lawyers and paralegals "to get equality with the prosecution".

But the judge, marine colonel Ralph Kohlmann, said twocivilian lawyers, including a defence department lawyer, were not authorised torepresent him.

The two were ordered to leave the defence table when Hickssaid he would not settle for them being designated as legal consultants.

One of the lawyers, Joshua Dratel, said he refused to signan agreement to abide by tribunal rules because he was concerned the provisionsdo not allow him to meet with his client in private.

The USmilitary flew Hicks' father and sister to the base and allowed them to meetprivately with him in the court building before the hearing started.

'Negative connotation'

Hicks has previously appeared before an earlier militarytribunal system created by a presidential order, which the US supremecourt later ruled unconstitutional.

Hicks is not accused of involvement in the September 11attacks on New York and WashingtonDC and Human Rights Watch has said he couldeasily be tried in a regular UScourt.

Davis admitted critics hadeffectively turned public opinion against the Guantanamo tribunals but said he expectedthat to change once the military begins presenting evidence.

"I recognise that around the world, 'Guantanamo,' when you say the word, has anegative connotation," he said. "One thing I hope is that in the waywe conduct these proceedings, maybe we can change some of those attitudes."

Source:Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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