Tuesday, 27 March 2007

WTF? GTMO - Guilty plea & more

WTF? GTMO - Guilty plea & more


David Hicks pleads guilty in GTMO, my understanding is that death for Hicks was already off the table. From the wires:

AUSTRALIAN man David Hicks has pleaded guilty at a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The Associated Press reported that Hicks, 31, entered a guilty plea to a charge of providing material support to terrorism.

Hicks’s military attorney Major Michael Mori entered the plea on behalf of his client, who stood alongside with a sombre expression.

Hicks answered “yes, sir,” when the judge, Marine Colonel Ralph Kohlmann, asked if that was in fact his plea.

The judge ordered the prosecutors and defence lawyers to draw up a plea agreement by 6am AEST tomorrow, which is expected to spell out his sentence.

The guilty plea came about an hour after Col Kohlmann, ordered prosecutors, Hicks and his legal team to return to court after the day’s 3-½-hour hearing had already wrapped up.

Hicks had chosen to defer entering a plea at the earlier hearing and the military commission had been adjourned before being hurriedly reconvened.

From the Sidney Morning Herald:

David Hicks has entered a guilty plea, after an initial hearing which was immediately thrown into disarray when the judge effectively disqualified two of his three lawyers.

As to the firing of most of the defense team, including one of America’s leading criminal defense attorneys, Joshua Dratel, press accounts note:

He was led into court being held on each arm by two military guards, who placed his hands on the defence table before a third guard pushed the seat in as he sat down. He was not allowed to stand up when the judge entered the room.

The presiding judge, Colonel Ralph Kohlmann said that Major Michael Mori’s assistant could not, at least for the moment, represent him because she was not a serving member of the military.

The judge also decided that Hicks’s civilian lawyer, New York criminal attorney Joshua Dratel could not represent Hicks because he had not signed a form demanded by the court saying he would conform to the regulations governing proceedings.

Mr Dratel protested strongly, saying he could not sign the form because the regulations governing the conduct of attorneys had not yet been formulated by the Secretary of Defence. He was not going to sign a blank cheque for his ethical obligations.

The judge also ruled in his own favour when Major Mori, who was left alone at the defence table, attempted to argue that judge Kohlmann was not impartial because he had not only effectively ruled against Hicks’s defence team, but had also tried to schedule the hearing last week, when Hicks’s civil lawyer was unavailable.

Another source notes:

TWO of David Hicks lawyers left the military court today in sensational circumstances after the tribunal’s judge said they had not complied with procedural rules.

Judge Colonel Ralph Kohlmann cited a number of compliance issues relating the court process but offered Hicks the chance for both his lead civilian lawyer Joshua Dratel and his assistant Rebecca Snyder to stay on the bench with Hicks to offer advice.

But they left the courtroom when Hicks - who would later reserve his rights and not enter a plea to one count of material support for terrorism - said there was no point in them staying, saying he wanted lawyers to represent him, not consultants.

“I’m shocked because I just lost another lawyer,” said Hicks when the judge said Dratel could not sit as counsel until he had signed a letter of agreement to comply with commission procedure. . . .

But the hearing was dominated by legal debate in which Major Mori and Mr Dratel set out to discredit the new Military Commission process. Mr Dratel said he did not sign a letter of agreement regarding the new commission ahead of today’s arraignment because it “provides a blank cheque that draws on my ethical obligations as a lawyer’’

Mr Dratel told the judge: “I’m in compliance with the Federal Statute but not the unilateral rule of this authority”.

As to world reaction?

The Australian Demorats and Greens today condemned the ejection of Hicks’s lawyers, saying it was further evidence of the the judicial process being rigged against the Australian.

“That’s the problem with a kangaroo court, it makes its own rules,” Democrats leader Lynn Allison said in Canberra.

“It’s a continued abuse of justice and of David Hicks himself.

More to follow, esp. on the issues regarding civilian counsel in the coming days.

No comments: