Few people in America know who David Hicks is. He’s an Australian man who was captured in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 and last week was the first person stored away at Guantanamo to be formally charged by the United States government under the new system of military tribunals. Hicks had been in Gitmo for five years (he claims he was subject to beatings), and was there under an allegation of attempted murder until the charges came down. At that point attempted murder was dropped because of lack of evidence (see Padilla, Jose) and Hicks was instead charged with material support of terrorism, which wasn’t illegal until 2006.
Well, now that Hicks’s case is actually going to trial, the government is considering charging Hicks’ lawyer with “using contemptuous language towards the president, vice-president, and secretary of defense.” Apparently that’s illegal for a military lawyer (free speech is notoriously lacking in the Armed Services). Never mind the obvious question of how the man is supposed to do his job without violating that law; penalties for that offense include jail time and loss of employment and Hicks’ lawyer — Major Michael Mori of Massachusetts, who has been criticized by the military for repeatedly traveling to Australia to speak out against Hicks’ treatment and taking part in events like vigils on Hicks’ behalf — is saying that he may resign from the case because he can no longer speak out for Hicks’ without endangering his own legal status. It’s a total conflict of interest, one that the government may have created intentionally and in my mind amounts to an obstruction of due process.
The newest reporting on Hicks is that if he is willing to accept a plea bargain and plead guilty to supporting terrorism, he might get off on time served and return to Australia a free man.
To learn more, see the David Hicks wikipedia page, which has links to dozens of Australian newspaper articles about him.