A Lawyer In Marine Corps Khaki Wins Australian Support For His Guantanamo Client

December 1st, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: A Lawyer In Marine Corps Khaki Wins Australian Support For His Guantanamo Client

New York Times
December 1, 2006
By Raymond Bonner
SYDNEY, Australia, Nov. 29 — David Hicks, a 30-year-old Australian who is about to begin his sixth year at Guantánamo Bay, is gaining supporters for his release from diverse quarters.
The rock singer Bono made an appeal during a concert in Brisbane. One of Australia’s pre-eminent writers, Richard Flanagan, dedicated his most recent novel, “The Unknown Terrorist,” a searing indictment about authorities and journalists who have effectively rounded up innocent individuals, to him.
On Monday, the attorneys general from Australia’s eight states and territories sent a letter to the federal attorney general demanding that Mr. Hicks be brought home, and asking 10 specific questions about the conditions of his detention.
They wrote the letter after meeting with the man who has become the star of the David Hicks show, as it were, Michael D. Mori, a major in the United States Marine Corps.
With short-cropped hair, and a burly chest full of ribbons, Major Mori is Mr. Hicks’s appointed military lawyer, and this month, sponsored by the Australian Lawyers Alliance, a trial lawyers group, he took his PowerPoint appeal across this vast continent, from Brisbane, on the east, to Perth on the west.
In Sydney, an audience of some 600 — students, lawyers, workers — applauded thunderously when he finished.
The audience here included Mamdouh Habib, in a suit and ponytail, looking far more fit than when he was released from Guantánamo, in early 2005; the Bush administration declined to prosecute him, which would have allowed evidence that he had been tortured after being taken to Egypt to be heard in court.
Major Mori was on his sixth visit here. In his short-sleeved khaki Marine Corps shirt, green trousers and highly polished black shoes, he made the case for Mr. Hicks’s release. He began with a blowup of an article from The New York Times Magazine: “Rahmahullah Hashemi was the Taliban’s chief spokesman abroad. So how did he end up at Yale?”
“This is the hypocrisy,” Major Mori began. “I get up every morning and scratch my head that David Hicks is in Guantánamo for five years and the chief spokesman for the Taliban is at Yale.” He feigned bewilderment. The audience loved it.
American and Australian officials have said that Mr. Hicks trained with Al Qaeda, and was picked up on the field of battle, in October 2001. But they say he did not shoot any American solider, or any civilian, during the war in Afghanistan.
If Mr. Hicks is returned to Australia, he will be a free man, because training with Al Qaeda was not a crime in Australia at the time.
Australia’s intelligence agency considers Mr. Hicks a dedicated enemy of the West. The Australian counterterrorism police, however, see him as a misguided soul, a wanderer in search of meaning.
A high-school dropout — too much drinking and drugs, too little studying, his parents have said — Mr. Hicks spent time in the Outback skinning kangaroos before going to Japan, where he broke horses. For an unknown reason, he went off to Kosovo during the Balkan wars to fight with the Kosovo Liberation Army, a Muslim guerrilla force. The war ended before he could fight.
He came home, to Adelaide, in southern Australia, and tried to join the Australian Army, but was turned down. “He’s a soldier wannabe,” Major Mori says. He attended an evangelical church for a while, found that unsatisfactory, then started attending the local mosque, and eventually converted. He made his way to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“All it would take is a phone call from John Howard, and David Hicks would be coming home,” Major Mori told his audience here. Britain had its citizens released, he noted. Then, seeming to goad the Australian government further, he said that even Pakistan and Afghanistan had obtained the release of their citizens.
Major Mori’s meeting with the state attorneys general seemed to have an impact on Mr. Hicks’s case.
“We were shocked by Major Mori’s account of the day-to-day treatment of Hicks,” Bob Debus, attorney general for the state of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, said in an interview.
“Neither I, nor any of my colleagues, have any particular sympathy for David Hicks,” Mr. Debus said. “But we have a bedrock commitment to the principles by which he should be dealt with.”
Michael Pelly, a spokesman for Philip Ruddock, the federal attorney general, said the Australian government was extremely frustrated that Mr. Hicks had not yet been brought to trial. It has repeatedly expressed this frustration to the Bush administration, Mr. Pelly said. “Nobody in this government is happy about the length of time this has taken,” he said in an interview.
During Mr. Ruddock’s most recent trip to Washington, he was told that the suspected senior Qaeda operatives now at Guantánamo, like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, would be tried first. “Our response was, can’t you walk and chew gum at the same time, can’t you have multiple military commissions?” Mr. Pelly said.
Major Mori has been “a very effective advocate,” Mr. Pelly said. “He’s very popular in Australia.”

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