Australian Detainee Has Hearing at Guantanamo Australian citizen David Hicks, charged with providing material support for terrorism, had a hearing Monday at Guantanamo. Hicks is the first prisoner to be formally charged under new military tribunal rules drawn up in the wake of a Supreme Court decision which found the previous rules unconstitutional.
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Australian Detainee Has Hearing at Guantanamo

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Australian Detainee Has Hearing at Guantanamo


Australian Detainee Has Hearing at Guantanamo

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

At Guantanamo Naval Base today, the U.S. military arraigned an Australian detainee on one count of providing material support for terrorism. The detainee, David Hicks, is the first terrorism suspect to be prosecuted under revised military tribunals.

The rules had to be rewritten last year after the Supreme Court said the Pentagon's system for trying Guantanamo detainees was unconstitutional. But the new rule has left room for surprise.

NPR's Jackie Northam was at today's hearing at Guantanamo. And Jackie, tell us a bit more, please, about the arraignment today of David Hicks.

JACKIE NORTHAM: Well, so far, Melissa, the hearing's still in progress. But so far, it has been very dramatic day. One of the first statements David Hicks made to the military judge was that he'd like more lawyers and paralegals for the defense team to try to make up the numbers that they have on the prosecution side.

But less than two hours into the hearing, he ended up losing two of his defense lawyers. And one of them was Rebecca Snyder, and she's a Navy reservist. And the judge ruled that she needed to go to - onto active duty if she wished to participate in Hicks' trial. And the other one was a civilian defense lawyer named Josh Dratel, and he has been on Hick's case, an integral part of it, since the Australian was first charged about three years ago.

BLOCK: And why was that civilian attorney, Mr. Dratel, why was he removed?

NORTHAM: Well, the judge told Dratel that he had to sign a form, and basically agreeing to the ground rules for participating in these trials. And Dratel has refused because he says the rules and regulations were still being drawn up, and he simply wasn't going to sign up blank checks - he needs to know what he's agreeing to.

Such as if he's giving up rights to confidential conversations. And he went on to say - he made quite a dramatic speech. He said this sort of ad-hoc way of holding a trial is, quote, "rilled(ph) with the same problems, which played the old trials," the ones that were rewritten by the Bush administration. And Dratel said he wouldn't just sit at the defense table if he couldn't participate. He said he, quote, "wasn't a potted plant." And then he started to storm out of the courtroom, but he was called back by the judge, and went on from there.

BLOCK: Hmm. Well, how did David Hicks react to all this was going on?

NORTHAM: Well, the judge asked Hicks if he wanted Dratel to remain as part of his defense team, and Hicks said no, obviously, if he can't participate - well, you know, it's not going to do any good. And then, Hicks, you know, in his very thick Australian accent. He just said he was shocked that he lost both of his lawyers. And he said now all I'm left with is poor Mr. Mori. And he was of course referring to his military defense lawyer Major Michael Mori. But you can imagine, he started off with, you know, four of them at the defense table, and then he went down to two as in matter of a couple of hours.

BLOCK: And just to be clear, will new attorneys be appointed to replace the two who were removed?

NORTHAM: We wish it could be clear. This is the problem with these proceedings right now, is because it's all brand new just as it was three years ago - it's all brand new then. And the problems - the inherent problems - start coming -becoming apparent as the trial or the hearing goes on. So, I'd love to answer your question, but at this point, nothing is clear.

BLOCK: Well, David Hicks has been at Guantanamo for more than five years now; has complained of harsh treatment there. How did he seem to you today?

NORTHAM: Well, he looked a lot different than he did two and a half years ago, when he first, you know, walked into the courtroom. For one thing, his hair is way down his back now. And his - one of his defense attorneys said he had grown it that long so he could cover his eyes. He said that they leave the lights on in his cell 24 hours a day, and he wanted it as a way to sleep. He's still a stocky man, and that type of thing.

He came in with two MPs, one on each arm. And he didn't look at his father and his stepsister, who were in the courtroom. But they had had a very, very long meeting just prior to that, almost two-hour meetings. His father and stepsister flown all the way in from Australia, and came down here all in a matter of a couple of days. So, you know, he doesn't look - sorry - anyway, he - it was all a very traumatic day. I'm sorry. There's just chaos in the pressroom right now.

BLOCK: I understand. Jackie, thanks so much. NPR's Jackie Northam at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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