Another "Confession" You Can Believe After 5 Years Of Torture
David Hicks has pleaded guilty to one count of supporting a terrorist organisation.
The plea to a late night specially convened military commission came after an apparent deal was reached between his defence attorney and the prosecution.
Major Michael Mori, Hicks’s military lawyer, entered the plea to the charge of material support for terrorism, which was broken into two counts or specifications.
Major Mori said Hicks pleaded guilty on specification one, and not guilty on specification two.
Specification one of the charge detailed Hicks's links to terrorist organisations and his activities in Afghanistan where he met Osama bin Laden and completed al-Qaeda training courses.
Specification two simply alleged that Hicks entered Afghanistan from about December 2000 to December 2001 to provide support for terrorism and that he did so in “the context of and was associated with an armed conflict namely al-Qaeda, or its associated forces against the United States or its coalition partners”.
The plea raises the prospect that he will soon return to Australia.
It is unclear what sentence he will have to serve. There was no mention of how long he will have to serve, or if he will serve it in Australia.
The Military Commission will reconvene tomorrow (Tuesday) to enter a formal verdict.
Hicks was asked to stand when he entered his guilty plea. He showed little emotion, but at the end of the hearing he turned around and said to one of his supporters: "Good to see, mate."
His father is reported to have left Guantanamo Bay before he entered the plea. Terry Hicks was told there was a late night hearing but declined to attend.
The initial hearing, which was held early morning Australia time, was immediately thrown into disarray when the judge effectively disqualified two of his three lawyers.
Hicks appeared in court wearing an olive green outfit, and thongs on his feet. The judge warned his defence counsel that in future he should not appear in prison-type clothes, in order to make sure that his presumption of innocence was maintained.
Hicks's hair was long, reaching down to his shoulder blades, but he had shaved off a long beard for his first court appearance in two and half years.
He looked in reasonable health, although, as his father Terry said, he looked puffy.
He was unrecognisable from old photographs of him, although the extra weight has made him resemble his father.
He spoke in a grunting, loud voice, protesting about the loss of his lawyers. The judge offered to let them remain on his defence table for the day, but Hicks said he wanted them as his lawyers, not advisers.
He appeared in reasonable spirits at the beginning of the proceedings, but as his defence team left the room, leaving only Major Mori, he appeared increasingly worried.
For most of the proceedings he squinted, concentrating on the legal argument.
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.
The judge also refused to follow the defence’s suggested schedule of hearings, saying it would mean that the trial would not get underway until 2008.
His father Terry met with him for more than two hours before the hearing.
He said: “He just wants to get back to a normal life, and he knows that John Howard and the Government is frightened that he will do something when he gets back. What the hell is he going to do, he did nothing in Afghanistan.
“His main aim is to come back to Australia, see his kids, and settle down.”
Australian parties condemn "kangaroo court"
"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.
"We must remember this is just the beginning. It could be several years before he's brough to trial proper."
Australian Greens leader Bob brown compared the dismissal of Hicks's lawyers to the processes under the former Soviet Union's legal system.
"This court is nowehere near the level of justice that we expect in a Western democracy, particularly in Australia.
"It's got the Howard Governement's tick of approval but it is mightily unpopular with Australians and as it's unfolding it's going from bad to worse."
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